Hot, muggy weather is already here, which means it will be a long hot summer, especially for livestock. "Animals, cattle included, have difficulty regulating their body temperature during extreme heat," says Missouri veterinarian Dan Goehl. That heat stress can lead to death.
To avoid that, there are some common sense things to help cattle, and other livestock, beat the summer heat:
1. Provide access to plenty of cool, clean drinking water. Iowa State University Veterinarian Grant Dewell says the rule of thumb is that cattle need 3 inches of linear water space per head during the summer. Extra water tanks should be introduced prior to extreme heat events so that cattle become accustomed to them. Waterers need to be kept clean to encourage cattle to consume adequate water. The water supply should be able to deliver 1.1% of body weight of the cattle per hour. A 1000 pound animal needs about 1.5 gallons of water per hour.
Ohio State University beef specialist Stephen Boyles says that above-ground water lines should also be provided shaded to keep water cool. "Run lines in fields that are not being currently grazed to water troughs that are in fields being grazed and check the water temperature in the water trough. Water temperature increases from 70 degrees to 95 degrees F can increase total water requirements by about 2.5 times."
Boyles also says that increased water consumption will increase excretion of urine, which will also increase the loss of certain minerals, such as sodium (a part of salt), potassium, and magnesium. "Free choice trace mineral salt should be provide in a location that the animals will consume it. Loose salt will be more readily consumed than block salt."
2. Provide shade. Cattle on pastures may have access to trees or other shelters for shade, and for confined animals without shade, consider building shade structure. Keep in mind that if the area provided is not large enough, the animals will congregate and can increase their body temperatures more than if there was not shade, advises Goehl. "Secondly, airflow is important. Shade needs to be provided in a manner to improve or, at the very least, not hinder airflow."
3. Improve ventilation. For cattle in semi enclosed facilities, improve the ventilation and air movement using fans and windows. If sunshades should be high enough to allow air movement. Remove objects that are obstructing natural air movement. "Outdoor cattle will benefit from sprinklers to cool them off. Make sure cattle are used to sprinklers before employing them during a heat wave. sprinklers or misters to help reduce air temperatures," says Dewell.
4. Avoid working cattle during times of extreme heat. If you have to work cattle, do that early in the morning.
5. Adjust feeding times. "Like people cattle do not like to eat in the heat of the day. Changing feeding patterns may be an option. This is especially useful for cattle that are not in a pasture setting," says Goehl. "Feeding 2 -4 four hours after the peak ambient temperature may help keep consumption more regular."