Record temperatures bring the heat for cattle farmers


By Marissa Brunkhorst, SDPB Radio (SD)

August 4, 2022


This summer has been one of the hottest for South Dakota. Rapid City has broken temperature records, and Sioux Falls recently saw its highest temperature since 1995.


While residents in larger cities are told to stay indoors to try to cool down, in more rural areas, farmers are taking precautions to protect their cattle against heat stress.


When cattle become overheated, they become stressed, which can impact how much they eat and how fast they grow.


"Cattle really prefer temperatures under 60 degrees, that's kind of their optimal," said Warren Rusche, with the South Dakota State University Extension.


Rusche said Midwest farmers have a lot of experience dealing with heat but have to stay vigilant as the weather changes.


"By and large people have pretty good plans in place to try and mitigate that stress as much as they can," he said.


Some of those plans include not handling cattle, changing feeding schedules to either earlier or later in the day, and providing shade. But what works for one farmer might not work for the other.


"Sometimes the cards are just not in your favor and things don't line up in the right place," said Matt Loewe, a Lennox area farmer. Loewe lost cattle in 2016.


"I thought I'd done stuff correctly," he said.


Excess humidity is the biggest challenge.


"It's just like people, nobody likes humidity, neither do cows," Loewe said.


Rusche said the best way to aid against humidity is nighttime cooling...