Shade, water essential for summer cattle

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PINE BLUFF – As summer temperatures rise, ranchers should make sure their animals stay cool, said David Fernandez, livestock specialist and interim dean of graduate studies and continuing education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, in a recent press release.

Overheating can cause animals to lose their appetite, get tired and, in extreme cases, die, the press release said.

“Four animals don’t have to live in air-conditioned comfort – they are well adapted to both the heat and cold of Arkansas,” he said. “However, providing shade and cool water can help reduce productivity losses and make your livestock more comfortable in hot summer weather.”

Animals gain heat through two processes – conduction and radiation. Conduction occurs when heat is transferred from an object to an animal, such as when an animal is heated while lying on a hot floor. Radiation, on the other hand, occurs when sunlight hits an animal’s body and the resulting heat is absorbed.

Darker animals absorb more heat from radiation than light animals, he said. Some animals have light hair but dark skin, so they can warm up faster than you would expect.

“Animals also generate heat internally when they metabolize food,” Fernandez said. “Between internal heat development and external warming on hot days, an animal can overheat.”

Overheating causes animals to stop eating and increase their heart and breathing rates. Severely affected animals can become weak and no longer stand. Extremely high temperatures – over 107 degrees – can lead to the death of the animal, it says in the message.

“Other side effects of heat stress include impaired weight gain and reproductive failure, especially in men,” said Fernandez. “Overheating can also suppress the immune system, which can lead to outbreaks of diseases like pneumonia in particularly hot weather.”

To reduce the risk of their livestock overheating, producers should understand how the animals naturally stay cool.

“Animals naturally keep cool in a number of ways,” Fernandez said. “They reduce their activity and seek shade, where they can often be found lying down. They can pant or, in the case of horses and Brahmin cattle, sweat.”

To ensure the safety of their animals, Fernandez recommends producers follow these tips:

• Keep drinking water cool. Since drinking cool water helps animals maintain a healthy temperature, producers should try to guarantee their animals a source of cool water. Simply placing a shadow over a water trough or tank can make the water quite cool.

• Provide shady places. Shade reduces the heating of an animal by radiation and allows heat to dissipate from its body. Shade can come from trees in the pasture or from portable self-made structures under which the animals can rest.

• Avoid working animals during the hottest time of the day. Increased activity can overheat their already hot bodies and cause heat stress.

• Shear sheep only in spring. So the wool has a chance to grow a little. Sheep with about an inch of wool are cooler than freshly shorn sheep and are less likely to get sunburn.

For more information on this or any other animal related topic, call Fernandez at 870-575-8316 or email [email protected]



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