October 31, 2014

Steamy conditions bring cattle deaths, reminders from experts

Some livestock deaths are reported as Nebraska feedlot operators struggle with soaring temperatures, high humidity and little wind.

Steve Pritchard, extension educator for Boone and Nance counties, urges cattlemen to take precautions. That includes providing access to cool drinking water and shade, plus, Pritchard says to remove anything that impedes air movement.

Pritchard says, “We plant a lot of wind breaks and rely on wind breaks to provide protection during the winter but we get into a situation with hot temperatures when there’s very little airflow, it’s really not a good scenario to have cattle close to wind breaks.”

He says it’s important to use sprinklers to wet cattle down in the heat, not misters.

“Mist tends to raise that humidity level which adds to the stress,” Pritchard says. “Instead, use a system that dispenses large droplets. We’ve got some feedlot operations that use what looks like large water cannons. Some fire departments have come out but that puts a lot of demand on them also to help soak those cattle down.”

Pritchard also urges that any working of cattle be done early in the day.

For more information on the problem, check the Nebraska Guide to Managing Feedlot Heat Stress, available online or from any local cooperative extension office.

By Susan Risinger, WJAG, Norfolk