Beef producers take steps to ward off heat stress, Officials report fewer cattle deaths this summer
By Greg Forbes, The
Last year, August heat surprised cattle producers as more than 4,000 livestock deaths were reported throughout
Dal Grooms, communications director for Iowa Cattlemen's Association, said farmers fell in to problems last year because the early summer was mild before temperatures hit triple digits in July and August. While temperatures have been equally as hot this summer, they have been much drier.
Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, said farmers were possibly tricked by wet conditions last year. Therefore, cattle were not adjusted to the hot temperatures nor were producers prepared to fight the extreme heat.
Vande Hoef said cattle farmers learned from last year and have proceeded to water pastures to give livestock a cool place to lie. Some keep misters on cattle or frequently spray the animals to keep them cool.
"Cattle don't sweat to cool down like humans do. So one way producers try to keep cattle cool is by providing clean and fresh water," Vande Hoef stated.
This year, Grooms explained that producers have been watering cattle regularly and often and have increased their exposure to shade.
Chris Clark, a beef specialist with Iowa State University Extension, said the feed schedule for cattle is also important to reduce the effects of heat.
"Farmers should feed cattle 70 percent of their daily ration in the evening or at night," he explained.
When an animal is fed at night, the fermentation process of digestion can occur when the temperature is at its coolest.
"It just adds to the heat they are soaking up from the sun and the temperature,"
The preparation by producers and the acclimation of cattle to the heat have led to a drastic decrease in heat-related deaths. Grooms said so far this year the largest reported loss of cattle from one lot was 40. Last year, a couple of lots in northeast
Most importantly, aside from improved health, the extreme heat has not greatly impacted beef prices as of yet.
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