As uncomfortable as we are during the heat of the day, it is important to remember cattle generally do not handle heat as well as humans,” according to Rick Machen, professor and Texas AgriLife Extension specialist.
Heat stress is a function of temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation.
The core body temperature of cattle does not peak until two hours after the peak in ambient temperature, which often comes at 5 p.m. or later. Cattle need at least six hours to dissipate the heat accumulated during the day. Consequently, nighttime cooling is essential for managing heat stress. Warm humid nights with no breeze following a +100° days pose a real challenge for cattle.
Machen offered the following tips for managing livestock during times of potential heat stress.
- Do not work cattle after 10 a.m. on potentially (heat) stressful days.
- Do not work cattle in the evening of a heat-stressed day.
- Wait time in holding pens should not exceed 30 minutes.
- Provide shade and plenty of clean fresh, cool drinking water.
- Do not allow extremely thirsty cattle free-choice access to water. Though rare, water intoxication can happen and can quickly result in death.
- Control biting flies (to minimize congregation of livestock).
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