Heat stress for beef cattle showing up in northern states


Andrea Johnson, Farm & Ranch Guide

AgUpdate - June 22, 2022


Whether on pasture or in a feed lot, beef cattle depend on cattle producers to survive extreme heat.


Cattle begin to experience mild heat stress when temperatures are in the mid- to upper 70s and humidity is above 30 percent.


In the northern states, temperatures were colder than normal from January-May 2022, so heat stress could easily occur when temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s.


A prolonged temperature of 88 degrees and 50 percent humidity or above puts cattle in the danger zone where they could succumb to heat if they donít have shade and access to water.


Heat stress is also exacerbated by the bovineís instinct to stand and crowd together, and biting flies and other insects cause stress, too.


In hot conditions, beef cattle consume less feed, and that can result in a loss of body weight that may be impossible to ever recoup.


Feedlot cattle that are nearing finishing weight are the most susceptible to heat stress, said Dan Herold, Ph.D., ruminant nutritionist for Hubbard Feeds. The black hide/hair plus finishing fleshiness/subcutaneous fat makes it difficult to cool off.


Herold has some suggestions producers may want to look over just to make sure they are staying on top of heat stress risk: