By Ryan Flaming, County Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
With plenty of summer left to go, soaring temperatures and humidity can take a toll on cattle, resulting in everything from reduced rates of gain to death loss.
There are a lot of things than can influence livestock’s comfort or stress levels, including temperature, wind speed, humidity and solar radiation. I found a livestock breathing equation that can help you evaluate your animal’s heat stress levels. If an animal is taking less than 90 breaths per minute, the rate is considered normal. A rate of 90-110 breaths per minute indicates alert, 110-130 indicates danger, and above 130 breaths per minute indicates emergency.
Here are some measures we can take to help keep our animals heat stress levels down during the summer.
* Provide cool drinking water. There is a difference between water heated by the sun all day and cool water.
* Make sure there is ample space around the drinking source, so cattle don’t bunch up as they are accessing the water.
* Provide shade, whether it is moving animals to a different pasture with more trees or stretching a screen over pens.
* Remove anything that impedes airflow. Do not pen cattle near windbreaks. Mow weeds if they are tall enough to function as a windbreak. If there are mounds, cattle will use t
hem to try to catch a breeze.
* Control flies. Cattle will come together to help each other deflect flies but air circulation is impeded when they bunch up, so controlling flies helps with controlling heat stress.
* If handling cattle, do it early in the day. Have all work done by 10 a.m.
* Where possible, use sprinklers, but do not use mist. Mist raises humidity, which adds to stress. Instead, use a system that dispenses large droplets.
With the real heat of the summer coming on now please be sure to double check on your livestock and make sure they are doing ok in the heat.