Walking pens in the late spring and summer months, as temperatures rise, we can bet on seeing a few things; cattle are in the shade or looking for some, the water trough always has a line and feed intakes typically decrease by as much as 10 percent from the cooler weather the day before. Why is this? Cattle have a core body temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to our 98.6 degrees, thus their threshold for heat is a bit different than ours. In fact, temperatures in excess of 80 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night put cattle at risk for heat stress events.
Keep in mind when the name of the game is putting pounds on we want to be able to do everything we can to keep the cattle up at the bunk and on feed. Therefore, we need to keep them cool. There are many things we can do and also, some feed additives that are reliable, proven and are deserving of our consideration.
- Availability of fresh and clean water. Consumption increases by up to 50 percent when temperatures rise.
- Shade when possible. Overcrowding, airflow and fly control become issues.
- Additives to help regulate body temperatures and maintain intake. Allow for more consistent intake in times of heat stress, when intakes typically slip.
As an example of the technology out there, and on a personal note, our operation has been using the mobile app ThermalAid. This app allows for inputs regarding farm/pasture/lot location in addition to specifics on the type of operation (eg: beef vs dairy, pasture vs feedlot, acclimated vs non-acclimated, etc). It then generates a weather hazard guide correlating the temperatures at the location listed with threshold levels of safe (no heat stress), danger (heat stress highly likely), to hazard (cooling mechanisms should be in place to prevent health issues). The app gives a great comparison of the way we are feeling versus the way the cattle are feeling. This allows us to prepare days in advance with the hope that doing so will prevent heat stress events and symptoms of our cattle. Additionally, we have found the app to be extremely user-friendly. The only downfall we see at this point is the guide is dependent on the weatherman’s forecast.
Take advantage of the resources and technology that are available to alleviate some worries through these warmer months. If you have any questions, the feed team is always happy to assist you too.