Heat stress model keeps cattle cool

Cattle wait at the feed bunk on a hot summer day.

It’s actually feeling like summer now, and that means we could be in for some hot weather. When it comes to cattle, it is best to be prepared to try to reduce heat stress before it happens.

One of the most effective ways to help reduce the heat load on your cattle is to provide shade. Shade decreases the temperature of the pen floor.

On hot days, the temperature of the black dirt of an open lot can be as high as 40 F higher than the ambient air temperature. With that much heat being generated beneath the cattle, it is pretty difficult to get away from it.

Second, eliminating the direct sunlight or solar radation on a black-hided fat steer drastically reduces the heat load that animal experiences.

There are a couple ways to provide shade. Windbreaks can provide shade, but they are also designed to stop the wind, and the wind is beneficial for us on the hot days. Sheds can also provide some relief from the direct sunlight. Another option is to look at the solar black-out fabrics. There are varying percentages of light blocked, but 70-80 percent solar black-out fabric is common.

Air movement is an important factor to consider also. The extremely still days are often the worst.

To improve airflow in your pens, make sure to mow any tall weeds around the yard. If bales were placed in areas for wind protection, now would be a good time to make sure they are moved to help improve airflow.

Well-maintained mounds in pens can help cattle catch a breeze compared to other areas of the pen. Certain pens around your facility may have better airflow than others, so put the most at-risk (heaviest) cattle in those pens.

With heat stress, if your mitigation technique is sprinklers, make sure that you turn them on early in the day before the cattle become overly stressed.

If you can wet the pen floor, it gives the cattle a cool place to rest and lay down. If you are wetting the cattle, make sure that you wet them to the skin to help with evaporative cooling.

During a heat event, you also need to be prepared for increased drinking capacity. Drinking additional water is another way for cattle to reduce their core body temperature.

Regularly, a minimum of 1 linear inch of drinking water space per head is recommended, so if your pen holds 100 head, you should have at least 100 inches (8 feet, 4 inches) of drinking space.

When heat is forecasted, it could be worth the time to get an additional tank into the pen and fill it to help supplement drinking space and water needs. Drinking space could also be supplemented by using sand bags to block a space in a concrete bunk to fill with water.

If you are looking for something to do next weekend, go get tickets to Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, and Carly Pearce Saturday, June 17.

This concert is part of the Prime Time Gala, which is an effort by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation group to raise funds for Feeding South Dakota to add more beef to their hunger relief efforts.

Meat and protein are often more difficult to come by and are vitally important to the families needing assistance. This is a great chance to show that beef producers are doing positive things for our communities.

Proceeds from the concert go to Feeding South Dakota. Over the last 3 years, the Prime Time Gala has raised nearly a half million dollars for Feeding South Dakota.

Come to the concert with a cause.

Eric Knock owns and operates Prairie View Vet Clinic in Miller, Redfield and Highmore, S.D. Questions? Send email to Eric Knock, DVM, at reknock@venturecomm.net or send mail to 321 E. 14th St., Miller, SD 57362.

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