July 31, 2014

Despite slight cool-off, cattle are still suffering

While temperatures statewide are cooling a bit, last week’s heat wave took a toll on livestock, especially cattle. Nebraska officials report several hundred cattle deaths in feedlots.

Veterinarian Dr. Grant Dewell says it’s not the number of animals that causes problems, it’s a lack of shade.

“They’re not very efficient at dealing with heat,” Dr. Dewell says. “Anytime it gets above 80 degrees, cattle are having to work to cool themselves off…so when it’s hot for us, it’s really hot for a cow.”

Two years ago, during a similar period of heat and humidity, cattle producers next-door in Iowa lost more than 4,000 cattle.

While the searing hot weather is gone, it’s still pretty warm, so Dewell says farmers and ranchers may want to take a few precautions, if they haven’t already.

“We’ve had producers put in shading facilities like hoop buildings that do a lot for manure management, but they’re also doing a lot for cattle comfort,” Dewell says.

Many beef facilities are also equipped with water sprinklers and fans. Dewell says cattle likely lost a tremendous amount of weight in the heat because they eat only small portions or not at all.

In 2011, beef producers in five states reported nearly 20,000 cattle deaths due to extreme heat.