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SDSU Extension and South Dakota Mesonet team up to release the Livestock Stress Tool

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Weather conditions in the Northern Plains can present many challenges for livestock producers. Farmers and ranchers need to be prepared for rapidly changing conditions to provide the best care for their livestock and minimize their risk of losses. Unfortunately, most of the information on a daily weather forecast is not specifically tailored for the unique factors important to livestock producers.

To help bridge those gaps and provide livestock producers with more tools to drive decision making, SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Mesonet have teamed up to provide the South Dakota Mesonet Livestock Stress Tool. This tool uses data collected from 29 Mesonet sites across South Dakota to provide different measures of livestock environmental stress including Wind Chill Index (WCI)/Heat Index (HI), Temperature Humidity Index (THI), and Comprehensive Climate Index (CCI).

In a survey of feedlot operators in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska, only about 26% used early warning alert tools as a trigger to proactively manage heat stress risks to cattle. SDSU Extension experts speculate the figure is similar for cold stress.

The Comprehensive Climate Index is the newest measure of livestock stress and incorporates the most factors to describe the effects of changing weather conditions on livestock. It was developed by Dr. Terry Mader, retired University of Nebraska researcher who is widely recognized as one of the leading experts in the effects of environmental stress in livestock. The CCI uses temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation to derive one value describing environmental stress on livestock under both cold and hot conditions. 

The Livestock Stress Tool also offers environmental stress forecasts for the next 48 to 72 hours for any station.

The Livestock Stress Tool can be found online.

For more information, contact Warren Rusche by email or 605.350.6633.

The South Dakota Mesonet is a statewide weather network of 29 stations supported by local sponsors and operated by South Dakota State University for the benefit of the general public, agriculture, natural resource management, emergency management and research. 

SDSU Extension worked with Mesonet at SDState to develop the Livestock Stress Tool – providing producers with current climate conditions and different measures of livestock environmental stress.