Chronic heat stress in cattle leads to long-term problems such as decreased fertility and weight gain.
Unlike many other animals, cattle can’t rid their bodies of heat by sweating. Instead they pant.
University of Missouri Extension beef specialist Eric Bailey said heat-stressed cattle show symptoms such as open-mouth breathing, slobbering and restlessness.
Breathing rate is a good indicator of heat stress in cattle, Bailey said. Producers should be alert when respiration rates range from 90 to 110 breaths per minute. Rates of 110 to 130 breaths per minute indicate a dangerous level of stress, and at 130 breaths per minute or above, producers should take emergency measures.
More than just high daytime temperatures create risks.
Overnight temperatures above 70 degrees create stress. Fermenting feed in the rumen generates heat, and cattle can restrict critical airflow when bunching up to reduce the amount of skin exposed to biting flies.
“The thermometer does not have to scream ‘uncle’ at you before we have a severe heat stress event,” Bailey said.
Cattle can adjust to elevated temperatures and humidity, but abrupt shifts in temperature and even seasonal changes can bring on heat stress. It takes six hours for cattle to cool down after a heat stress event, Bailey said.
Bailey suggests some ways to reduce heat stress including:
• Water — Allow 2 to 3 inches of linear head space for water. Check water pressure to make sure tanks can keep full.
• Sprinklers — Use sprinklers to gently wet down animals. Avoid cold water shock. Do not mist the air to cool the animal; the mist will not get through the coat to reach the skin.
• Water Source — Make sure cattle are familiar with the type and location of the water source.
• Shade — Look online for shade structures to buy or build, or move animals to natural shade areas. Bailey recommends 20 to 40 square feet of shade per head.
• Cattle Handling — Avoid handling cattle during periods of high temperature and humidity. Don’t let cattle stand more than 30 minutes in processing areas.
The deadline is June 30 to sign up to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2022 Census of Agriculture.
University of Missouri Extension economist Ryan Milhollin said federal, state and local governments as well as agribusinesses, researchers, trade associations and others use the census data to serve farmers and rural communities.
Every five years USDA conducts the survey, the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial data on agriculture for every county in the U.S. Information from the 2022 census will be released in 2024.
The census counts U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land, rural or urban, that are growing fruit, vegetables or food animals count if the owner raised and sold — or normally would have sold — $1,000 of more of the products during the census year.
Milhollin said the data helps policymakers see emerging trends such as land uses, renewable energy, food marketing practices, specialty crops and organic production.
Sign up online at nass.usda.gov/AgCensus. Census forms will be sent to farmers in November and can be returned by mail or securely submitted online.
Farmers and ranchers already getting surveys from the USDA do not need to sign up for the census.