7 Ways to Battle Heat Stress

May 13, 2021

Tara Ellerman
Countryside Feed Livestock Production Specialist
Summer weather has undoubtably arrived and brings many challenges along with it! Heat and humidity can have a major impact on your bottom line. When nighttime temperatures fail to drop below 70°F, cattle do not have the ability to recover before the effects of the next day’s heat stress starts. Among other challenges, this causes reduced intakes and gains. Fat cattle ready for slaughter are especially affected by heat stress, and with the backlog of cattle from the COVID-19 problems, considering ways to combat heat stress is extremely important this year. Here are a few tips for battling heat stress:
Access to fresh, clean drinking water is crucial for cattle under heat stress. Well hydrated animals have an increased ability to fight heat stress. Ensure pens have enough waterer space for the number of animals in the pen. Cleaning waterers often to ensure water available is fresh and palatable is also a good practice.
2.Feeding Schedule
Hot temperatures and heat stress commonly cause reduced feed intake. One way to combat this effect is to adjust feeding schedules. Feeding a higher percentage of the daily ration at night allows cattle to eat when temperatures cool off.
3.Air Movement
There are few things that are more miserable than dealing with hot, stagnant air. When possible move cattle to pens with higher natural air movement. Air flow can be improved by building higher mounds, moving cattle to pens that are naturally on higher ground, removing wind breaks when possible, etc.
The summer sun can be absolutely relentless. Putting up shade tarps is one way to offer some relief to cattle, and has been reported to reduce temperatures 15 - 20F.
Dark dirt surfaces can absorb a lot of heat. Applying bedding to pens can reduce surface heat and keep cattle more comfortable.
6.Reduce Activity
Avoid moving or working cattle in the heat of the day. Treating and hauling cattle is recommended to be done before 10 am in the summer months.
7.Consider Feed Additives
  • Ration preservers: Propionic acid-based products, such as calcium propionate, can be added to rations to reduce growth of yeasts and molds, keeping feed fresh and extending bunk life.
  • Electrolytes: Electrolytes are a good first step in helping cattle combat heat stress. These substances promote hydration by aiding in water absorption across tissues. 
  • Vasodilators: These feed additives help cattle increase “open up” blood vessels and increase blood flow to their extremities allowing heat to escape.
  • Osmolytes: This group of compounds encourage water intake and absorption, allowing cattle to maintain hydration at the cellular level. 
Heat stress is a serious concern in the summer months. Contact your Countryside Feed sales representative to discuss options for combating heat stress in your beef cattle!

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