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Dealing With Heat Stress

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Date: June 15, 2020
Agent: Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke Center.

Today’s topic is Dealing With Heat Stress. Burke County has been blessed with scattered rain in recent weeks, providing some relief from the higher temperatures. Livestock producers can help their animals endure the stress of 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 won’t have 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. 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 elevations to utilize wind currents for cooling. Horses in particular have trouble maintain 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.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke center. If you would like more information call us at 764-9480.