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Heat Stress in Cattle
Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
Published: May 12, 2022

Typical summer heat can negatively affect your beef cattle, and as temperatures go up you need to monitor your cattle for heat stress. Dr. Barry Whitworth, DMV, with Oklahoma State Extension indicates at drovers.com that anytime temperatures are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, heat stress can occur. It is important to watch for signs of heat stress including increased breathing rate, open mouth breathing, breathing with the tongue protruding, and excessive salivation. When you see these signs, you will know these cattle need help quickly.

The quickest method of cooling cattle is to spray them with a mist of water and get them to an area with shade and natural wind. Just because your cattle are not showing clinical signs does not mean they are not affected negatively by the heat. Hidden consequences of heat stress include decreased conception rates in cows, decreased sperm quality in bulls, and reduced weight in younger cattle. The most important thing you need to do is make sure all your cattle have access to good clean water and plenty of it.

In the hot summer, an adult cow or bull may drink two gallons of water per 100 pounds of body weight per day. That means a 1500-pound cow needs 30 gallons of water per day. It is a good idea to place water tanks in the shade to keep the water as cool as possible and to keep the troughs clean. Make sure you have plenty of trough space around the water troughs so cattle can spread out when drinking and stay cooler. Feeding your cattle in the late evening after high daytime temperatures allow cattle to gradually lose heat better while fermenting their food after eating.

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