This month's Friday On The Farm is all about managing heat stress during the hot summer months.
We all know that the late summer heat can start to take a toll on us, but it can also take a toll on the cattle. This means that, just like us, they have ways to keep themselves cool.
Cattle out on pasture usually have more natural opportunities to cool themselves down. This might look like shade from trees if available. Or they like to dip into a pond or stream if the pasture has one. Cattle are usually too smart for their own good, which means they might also use the water tank to cool down (which is not ideal!). You will see cattle grazing during the early mornings or later in the evening and bedding down in the shade during the daytime hours to try to stay cool.
Cattle that aren't out on pasture typically don't have the same opportunities to cool themselves as the cattle on pasture. Therefore, we provide more ways to keep them cool. This includes ensuring they have more than enough water to drink, periodically turning on sprinklers if it is really hot, providing shade covers in pens, and frequently checking on them to ensure they stay cool. If their tongues are out and they are breathing heavily, we know it's time to intervene and try to cool them down.
Typically, when temperatures are high during the day, the cattle use the cooler night-time temperatures to cool down. If the temperature at night doesn't drop enough for the cattle to cool down, heat stress can kick-in and really take a toll. Last week, we had a 3-day spell of hot weather and it was really hard on the cattle (and humans, too!).
It's essential for cattle caretakers to watch for signs of heat stress in cattle and make sure that they stay happy, healthy, and cool!