Extreme heat forecast for the next few days; The SDSU expansion provides tips to help growers prepare their livestock

The SDSU expansion is providing resources to help ranchers across the state prepare for extreme temperatures, and with temperatures expected to soar into the upper 90s over the next week, it’s important for growers to prepare and above have appropriate mitigation strategies in place to reduce heat stress in livestock.

“This region will experience another bout of extreme heat over the coming week,” said Warren Rusche, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist. “Cattle feeders should monitor their animals closely, ensure they have an adequate water supply and avoid handling them as much as possible. Most at risk are darkly hidden, market-ready cattle in barns without air circulation.”

Growers can use SDSU extension resources like the Livestock Stress Tool to monitor weather conditions and adjust their strategies in advance to prepare for extreme temperatures. The Livestock Stress Tool is a partnership between the SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Mesonet, which collects data from Mesonet weather stations across South Dakota to provide real-time and predictive measurements of environmental risk to livestock.

According to Rusche, other measures producers can take to protect livestock include:

  • Be Ready Early – Initiating mitigation measures before situations reach an emergency status helps cattle better adapt to changing environments.
  • Provide Extra Water Capacity – Ensuring an adequate supply of water is available is vital to the health and welfare of cattle, as they can require 20 gallons of water or more per day when temperatures exceed 80°F, at a minimum half of that demand occurs during a short afternoon time window. Two to four inches of water area per capita (or 1000 pounds live weight) is required to ensure cattle have access to adequate water. If these conditions cannot be met by existing facilities, it may be necessary to provide additional water tanks.
  • Sprinkler Application – The application of water to reduce the effects of heat stress has been shown to be effective. Applying water early in the day offers opportunities to create a cooler pen surface and dissipate heat before temperatures peak. However, this creates the potential for muddier bay surfaces, particularly in wet summers or in poorly drained bays.
  • Reduce energy intake from forage – Reducing the amount of dietary energy used by cattle, either by slightly reducing feed intake or by reducing the energy density of the forage, has been shown to help cattle cope with large heat events to become. In addition, feeding a larger portion of the diet later in the day shifts peak metabolic heat stress to a time when temperatures are not peaking.

For additional resources or to learn more about livestock heat mitigation strategies, visit the SDSU Extension Extreme Heat webpage.

For more information or questions, contact Warren Rusche, Assistant Professor and SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist, at [email protected] or 605-688-5452.

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