Protect your cattle from heat waves

During hot summer days, humans go swimming, drink lemonade, or move inside to air conditioning to cool down. But cattle stay outside, with nothing to cool them.
This reduces their growth and efficiency.
While nobody is suggesting placing cattle on beach blankets, with sunglasses and strawberry daiquiris to sip, researchers at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. have new information to help producers recognize when their cattle are stressed by heat and humidity, which should aid in planning for relief when a heat wave occurs.
A heat wave is three or more consecutive days of extremely hot conditions.
Hot summers always have affected farmers in certain areas of the country. Heat waves, though, occurred more often in the 1990s than in the previous four decades.
Some also lasted longer, and were more intense, than those of the past, according to recently-retired agricultural engineer and biometeorologist G. LeRoy Hahn.
Heat waves usually are most severe from mid-June to mid-August, when many cattle are near market weight. In the U.S. heat wave of 1997, farmers lost $28 million and in the one of 1999, $40 million, because of cattle deaths and decreased performance.
During heat waves, beef cattle do not grow as fast or as efficiently, and dairy cattle don’t produce as much milk,
There are a few ways to observe whether cattle might be heat-stressed. A simple way is to compare the temperature and humidity to a graph to see whether the animal is in the danger area.
But Hahn thinks that “the animal is the best sensor,” and respiration rate is a way to measure heat stress.
When humans get hot, they sweat. Cattle, on the other hand, do little sweating. They lose heat mainly through respiration and, eventually, panting.
During hot days, Hahn says, farmers should count the breaths per minute of a few cattle to see if they exceed the healthy rate of 60-80. This can be done with a simple stopwatch.

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