Periods of heat stress call for cattle producers to be vigilant in making sure their animals are adequately prepared. One of the most important things producers can do is provide cool, clean drinking water. Providing an adequate source of drinking water helps to keep animals’ internal body temperatures within normal limits. Above-ground water lines need to be shaded so they do not act as solar water heaters and make the water too hot to drink.
It is also important for animals to have shade and for buildings to be as open as possible for adequate ventilation. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals can also be beneficial.
One thing cattle do to deal with heat stress is stand in ponds. While this may relieve heat stress, it also pollutes the pond.
It is best to avoid working animals during periods of heat stress. Producers should also avoid transporting livestock during high levels of heat stress. When livestock must be transported, haul fewer animals per load. Planning trips so the animals can be loaded immediately before leaving and unloaded quickly upon arrival can likewise help minimize the risk.
Cattle become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees. The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity, and is used to describe how it feels outside.
The University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center provides warnings of the potential danger to livestock. The county specific index indicates three levels of heat stress: no stress, danger stress and emergency stress.
Producers who want to keep up-to-date with the livestock heat stress index can access the UK College of Agriculture’s Weather Center’s Web site http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu or go to the LaRue County Cooperative Extension Service’s website http://ces.ca.uky.edu/larue/ and click on the weather link.