With forecasters predicting above normal temperatures and little wind, ranchers and feeders should take precautions to protect livestock from heat stress. These weather events are unavoidable but management strategies can help reduce the impact.
Research has shown the most effective practices include providing adequate shade, spraying with water, careful monitoring, and proper feeding and watering. Spraying cattle duplicates the cooling effect of evaporating sweat. Using a system that disperses large droplets of water instead of a fine mist has proven most effective at saturating the hair for maximum cooling. Feeding once a day in the late afternoon reduces body heat, as digestion occurs four to six hours after consumption.
Monitoring air temperature, humidity, wind speed and cloud cover is an important part of managing livestock heat stress. Overnight lows higher than 74 degrees Fahrenheit do not allow cattle to adequately cool, requiring heightened observation and possibly intervention the following day. Livestock heat stress forecast maps are produced daily through the partnership of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and the National Weather Service. These maps can be accessed at http://www.kla.org/heatstress.aspx.
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