Help Keep Cattle Comfortable in High Heat


Recent high temperatures and above-average humidity have created unfavorable conditions for livestock.

Livestock owners are encouraged to continue efforts to keep cattle and other livestock comfortable using all available resources. Cattle with dark hides, fat cattle, and ill animals are all at greater risk of heat stress. Once heat stress sets in, preventative measures are less effective.

Producers should be on the lookout for signs of heat stress, such as elevated breathing rate, open-mouth breathing, and excessive drooling. The following measures can be taken to prevent heat stress.

Avoid moving livestock unless absolutely necessary. If cattle must be handled, plan to complete the work as early in the morning as possible.

Ample water should be made available under shaded areas, when possible.  Cattle may consume as much as 50 percent more water during hot weather to regulate their body temperatures. Cattle will drink more water if the water temperature can be maintained below 80 degrees. Sprinklers may also help keep cattle cool and producers should use large droplets, because a fine mist can add to the humidity. In addition, pen mounds in the feedlot should be wet down in the evening to allow cattle a cool place to lie down and dissipate body heat.

Shade should be provided in well-ventilated areas. It is important that a sufficient area of shade is available so the cattle do not bunch up while competing for cool spots. Airflow may be obstructed by vegetation, buildings, haystacks or windbreaks. Biting insects also should be controlled to reduce stress.

Cattle produce metabolic heat from digestion.  Changing feeding patterns so that a majority of the feed is provided after the heat of the day will assist in keeping cattle cool.