Heat and Humidity

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Livestock producers can help their animals endure the stress from heat and humidity in a variety of ways. To reduce livestock heat stress in hot humid conditions, it is important to provide plenty of food, water, and shade, and maintain good animal health. Species specific management also helps producers reduce economic losses from heat stress.

Cows consume around 70% of their feed after midnight through early morning. The heat production from ruminant digestion is tremendous, and occurs about 4 hours after ingestion. Feed cattle on grain rations early in the morning, so they wont have to rely on feeding in the hottest part of the day. Endophyte infected fescue pastures increase heat stress, as the toxins elevate body temperature. Decreased milk production, decreased weight gains, and lowered reproductive efficiency result also. Diluting pure fescue stands with clovers, has continually shown to offset these effects in research. Access to an adequate cool, clean water supply that is centrally located, helps to reduce heat stress. Avoid giving access to ponds, as wading warms the water, contaminates it, and reduces animal intake. Provide shade, preferably in higher elevation areas to utilize wind currents for cooling.

Horses in particular have trouble maintaining body temp in hot humid conditions. Use the comfort index to determine whether or not horses should be worked or ridden. To calculate, add the relative humidity to the temperature and use the sum. 130 to 150, use caution, above 180, do not ride or work the horse. Healthy livestock handle heat stress better, so reduce stresses from diseases and internal and external parasites and you will help your livestock to endure the stress of summer heat and humidity.

Written By

Photo of Damon PollardDamon PollardExtension Agent, Agriculture - Livestock and Field Crops, Forestry (828) 439-4460 damon_pollard@ncsu.eduBurke County, North Carolina
Updated on Jun 13, 2014
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