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Heat and cold

Heat stress can reduce productivity – reproductive performance and/or daily weight gain – in beef cattle herds. Ansovino provides calculations based on recent weather information (past 14 days), and also on forecasts (next 7 days) to help preparing for and monitoring heat and cold stress of your cattle.

Set up alerts for the Cattle Comfort Index and heat stress values for „low sensitivity” (healthy, adult, acclimated) and „high sensitivity” (young and/or non-acclimated) animals.

Handling heat

Illustration: Photo of an Alpine cow in the Engadin in Switzerland.

Animal age, hair coat length, hair coat color, and nutritional status interact with environmental factors to impact severity of heat stress on individual animals.

Provide ample water — The most important management concern in heat stress situations is to provide enough water for cattle to be able to get the water they need. If possible, water should be cooled.

Provide shade — A shade tree is just as welcome a relief for cattle as humans on a hot summer day. Shade can also be constructed. The most effective shade is a solid reflective (white colored, galvanized, or aluminum) roof. Shading with wooden slats, plastic fencing, or other materials that allow flecks of sunlight to hit the animals are less effective. If possible two shaded areas are recommended: one over the feed area to increase feeding time, and another away from the feed area to encourage the cattle to rest. Water should be made available under both shaded areas, to increase the water consumption during heat stress period.

Change feeding patterns — For fed cattle, shift the feeding schedule toward evening on days when the Cattle Comfort Index is above 30°C. Try to deliver 70% of the daily scheduled feed two to four hours after the peak CCI value. Decreasing the amount of feed during the heat of the day keeps the metabolic heat of digestion lower.

Improve airflow — Consider where the cattle are located and if there is any air restriction. Buildings, high fences, or vegetation can block the airflow.

Avoid handling cattle — Handling cattle can elevate their body temperature by as much as 2 degrees Celsius. If cattle must be worked on days when the heat stress level is likely to reach or go over 2 (moderate), try to do the work before 8:00 AM and do not work cattle after 10:00 AM.

Control biting flies — Stable flies cause cattle to bunch and disrupt cooling. Monitor the situation and control the flies as needed. Eliminate any shallow pools or muddy areas nearby, since they are common breeding areas for flies.

Wetting animals — In emergency heat stress situations, it may be necessary to cool cattle by soaking them with water. A sprinkler or water nozzle needs to have enough pressure and water volume to wet the animal to the skin. Mist that only wets an animal’s outer hair coat is not recommended, as it may actually add to the heat stress by increasing the nearby relative humidity.

Coping with cold

Beef cattle can be comfortable within a wide range of temperatures, depending largely on hair coat length and hair coat condition (dry, wet, muddy etc.). In general, a cow’s energy requirements increase 1% for each degree the cattle comfort index is below freezing.

For a cow wet to the skin, the increased energy requirement begins at 15°C and increases about 2% for each degree drop. This should be mitigated by increasing its feed as appropriate (also possibly offering a better quality hay).

A second approach that is often used is to reserve the highest quality hay for feeding during stressful weather periods.

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