Preparing for Summer Heat

Feedlot steer ( UNL )

As cattle feeders hold on to fat cattle until the opportunity to be harvested arises, it is important to prepare for periods of extreme heat by developing a heat stress management plan. The combination of hot temperatures, high humidity, and lack of air movement can result in severe cases of heat stress for cattle. When temperatures remain above 70°F during the night, cattle are unable to recover before the next episode of heat exposure. This can result in reduced intakes and gains, and in extreme cases, death. Cattle have not acclimated to summer conditions yet, so helping ease this adaptation is critical, especially for all the heavy cattle on feed right now. 

Some heat stress mitigation strategies to consider include: 

  • Proper management during heat stress conditions starts with providing plenty of water and space around water tanks for each animal.
  • Sprinkler systems can be effective in cooling cattle and pen surfaces in dry conditions; however, limit use when humidity and moisture are high.
  • Bedding pens is also an option to help lower the temperature of the pen surface.
  • Providing shade can help reduce the heat load on cattle up to 20 degrees.
  • Avoid working or transporting cattle during extreme temperatures. If necessary, handle cattle early in the mornings and not any time after 10 a.m.
  • Consider reducing the amount of feed delivered in the morning to help lower the heat load on cattle.
  • Improve air flow by incorporating tall mounds and placing cattle in pens with fewer windbreaks in the summer.
  • Monitor weather frequently for potential heat events. The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center Cattle Heat Stress Forecast and Nebraska Mesonet Cattle Comfort Index can be helpful in determining when cattle are at risk for heat stress.

For more information, see the Heat Stress Mitigation in Feedlot Cattle webinar or the Feedlot Heat Stress Information and Management Guide.