Guest Blog Post by Jen Gillespie: Cows Sweat, too!

July 29, 2010 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Did you know that cows sweat? Yep! Just like the farmers and ranchers caring for them, cows actually perspire as a means of keeping their bodies cool. Also like their human counterparts, cattle need shade and plenty of H20 to help prevent heat stress brought on by the hot summer sun.

Heat stress during the summer months is a major concern for livestock producers. Individual cows react differently to heat, but in the worst cases, livestock suffering from heat stress can lose their appetite or experience reduced rates of growth, making them more susceptible to illness or even death. Believe me, that’s the last thing a producer wants!

In the latest issue of Healthy Animals published by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a group of scientists actually did some research looking into various aspects of heat stress in cattle and what management tools producers can implement to keep their animals healthy and cool.

There were three main components to the scientists’ work: analyzing animal susceptibility to heat stress, identifying contributing environmental factors, and evaluating management techniques to combat the stress.

Let’s talk about what the scientist found for each of these issues.

Animal Susceptibility to Heat
When considering the actual cattle themselves, there are several dynamics that can affect each individual’s risk of becoming overheated. One study analyzed several factors that influence the sweating rate in different breeds of cattle…results showed that coat color, wind speed, access to shade, and breed could influence an animal’s physical response to heat. So depending on the breed of cattle you work with, there will be different needs to keep them protected from the heat.

Contributing Environmental Factors
By analyzing weather data from significant heat waves, two ARS scientists at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) teamed up with an engineer to identify the environmental factors that contributed to higher incidences of cattle stress. With their findings, the trio developed a heat stress model incorporating temperature, humidity, sun intensity, and wind speed to help predict when environmental conditions are most likely to cause heat stress. Bonus: To make their findings more user-friendly, they created an easy-to-read, color-coded map that includes South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, western Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and northern Texas. You can view this map by clicking here. That’s some pretty neat stuff!

Management Techniques to Combat Stress
All this heat stress data doesn’t do producers much good if they don’t have management tools to implement in protecting their cattle. So, to help come up with a solution, the USMARC scientists evaluated the effectiveness of various shade materials to protect cattle raised in outdoor pens. Here’s what they found: the higher the percentage of solar radiation blocked by the given material, the more effective the shade will be at reducing heat stress. So, for example—porous snow fence material is not as effective at reducing stress as solar-radiation blocking polyethylene cloth—however both materials did reduce cattle stress. Any shade provided offers some protection to the cattle, as it helps to reduce respiration rates and lower body temperature.

Research efforts like these have been essential for developing tools and management practices to help cattle producers beat the heat. And that’s a relief not just for the cattle, but for the people who work with them as well.

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of livestock is always a top priority for producers, but during the summer months it becomes an even bigger concern as producers work around the clock to ensure their animals are protected from the perils inherent to the season. This is just another great example of how our farmers and ranchers work their butts off every day not only to ensure the safety of their animals, but also to provide us with a safe, high quality food supply. I tip my hat to those producers.

Have a great day, and remember to stay cool!!


**Information in italics was pulled directly from the article ‘Scientists Help Cattle Producers Protect Herds Against Summer Stresses’ featured in the Healthy Animals publication. To read the full article or subscribe to Healthy Animals, click here.

The opinions expressed in the above post represent the thoughts and feelings of the guest blogger, and not necessarily NYFEA as a whole.


Entry filed under: Guest Bloggers.

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