As scorching temperatures persist across the nation, cattle producers are grappling with the challenge of safeguarding their livestock from the relentless heat. The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, in collaboration with the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has issued heat stress forecasts that continue to impact major cattle-producing states in the coming days.
Intense Heat Woes
The distress caused by this heatwave is particularly pronounced in the middle and lower Great Plains and Southeastern regions, where "emergency" levels of heat are predicted until the middle of the upcoming week. Moreover, a substantial portion of the U.S. is poised to experience alarming and hazardous heat levels.
Unfortunately, areas already grappling with dry or drought conditions are likely to remain at the heart of this heat stress predicament. In regions like North of Forth Worth, Texas, ranchers have borne the brunt of scorching conditions since late June, with hay feeding becoming both tiresome and financially draining.
Pam Newman Williams, located in central Texas, echoes the dire situation, citing the parched pastures and the looming risk of severe fires due to triple-digit temperatures.
Water: A Lifesaver
In the midst of these stressful heatwaves, cattle producers are adopting innovative measures to shield their livestock from harm. Derek Pohl, a cattle producer from Dorchester, Neb., has turned to water as a frontline defense. Pohl's strategy involves a portable water tank fitted with a sprinkler, which sprays cooling water onto the cattle in the enclosure.
To date, Pohl has transported nearly 15,000 gallons of water, highlighting the lengths to which farmers are going to ensure the comfort and survival of their animals. While the conditions may not be ideal, this approach is effectively sustaining the cattle.
In addition to water spraying, there are several other crucial considerations that can significantly aid cattle during heatwaves. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers valuable insights into best practices:
Ample Water Access: Ensuring cattle have access to clean and abundant water is paramount. Adequate space for all cattle, including calves, to access water is crucial.
Providing Shade: Relocating cattle to pastures with natural shade or implementing portable windbreak panels can offer essential relief.
Facilitating Air Movement: Even a gentle breeze can offer respite. Allowing cattle to access areas with a bit of wind can make a notable difference.
Cool Surface Areas: Offering access to surfaces with vegetation helps keep cattle cooler, as these areas can mitigate the effects of heat.
Reducing Additional Stress: Deliberately reschedule any activities that could amplify stress for cattle, such as gatherings, weaning, or preconditioning.
While prioritizing livestock well-being is paramount, it's equally important for farmers to prioritize their own health and safety. Applying these five considerations not only aids in keeping cattle comfortable but can also enhance your own well-being. Staying hydrated and adopting these practices is essential as you navigate the challenges of managing your operation during extreme heat events.