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Agricultural News

Heat Stress Reaches Dangerous Levels Across Oklahoma

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:03:35 CDT

Heat Stress Reaches Dangerous Levels Across Oklahoma

The dog days of summer can be really dangerous for your beef cattle herds. Heat stress is a serious problem, if you don't have your cattle in the right situation. Temperatures in the 90's, humidity and triple digit heat indexes are a recipe for disaster if you don't have shade for your cattle, if you don't some air moving over them, if you don't have plenty of clean fresh water available for them. On today's Beef Buzz, Oklahoma State University Animal Welfare Specialist Dr. Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo says another thing producers need to watch is the time of day you work your cattle.

"Working animals and getting them out of their home pens or home pastures and putting them through a walk or a hike to a working facility, it stresses them out," Calvo-Lorenzo said. "Just that alone can elevate their temperature one to three degrees, which is a lot."

Dr. Calvo-Lorenzo is with the Animal Science Department at Oklahoma State University and she talked in recent days with Dave Deken of the OSU Ag Communications Department about how you can help your cattle cope with the heat. If producers have to work animals, she recommends getting them worked as early as possible in the day. In putting cattle into working or holding facilities, Calvo-Lorenzo recommends keeping that limited to a maximum of 30 minutes.

"Just really minimize the stress that those animals have to endure, because they are already stressed from the heat they are going to work with later on in the day," Calvo-Lorenzo said.

One important tool producers have access to weather information available through the radio, television and internet. Producers can find weather forecast's for the day as well as longer term forecasts that allow producers to know what's coming, giving them more time to prepare by setting up shade structures or hauling additional water, if needed.

Producers are gaining a deeper understanding of heat stress with several websites putting together heat stress indexes or cattle comfort advisors. Calvo-Lorenzo says these sites are taking weather information like wind speed, temperature, humidity in create a number, which estimates the comfort level of cattle.

"These models are becoming much more complex in understanding that weather and the environment is very different from one location to the next and they are trying to give us
a more accurate understanding of what the animal is feeling like, that way producers can instantly and quickly start taking the appropriate steps to make sure their animals have all the tools they need to overcome those really hot temperatures," Calvo-Lorenzo said.

There are also some new apps that help producers prevent heat stress. The app "Thermal Aid" was developed by researchers at the University of Missouri. Calvo-Lorenzo says this app uses live weather data to determine if livestock are being affected by heat stress by measuring respiration to estimate cattle comfort is and provides tips to minimize the effects of the heat.

In Oklahoma the Mesonet that also provides a "Cattle Comfort Advisor". Calvo-Lorenzo says producers can view this online at look at the their local county or region and see what the numbers look like and producers can take the appropriate steps to keep their cattle in the comfortable range for heat stress.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.


Ron Hays Beef Buzzes with Dr. Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo
right-click to download mp3


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