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SDSU Extension Encourages Producers to Prepare for Extreme Heat Temperatures

Group of mixed cattle in a hot, dusty feedlot.
Courtesy: Canva

BROOKINGS, S.D. - SDSU Extension provides resources to help livestock producers across the state prepare for extreme temperatures, and with temperatures expected to rise into the upper 90s over the next week, it is important for producers to prepare and have proper mitigation strategies in place to reduce heat stress on livestock.

"This region will be experiencing another round of extreme heat in the coming week,” said Warren Rusche, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist. “Cattle feeders should monitor their livestock closely, make sure they have adequate water supplies and avoid handling as much as possible. Dark-hided, market-ready cattle in pens lacking air flow are at the greatest risk.”

Producers can utilize SDSU Extension resources, such as the Livestock Stress Tool, to monitor weather conditions and adjust their strategies ahead of time to prepare for extreme temperatures. The Livestock Stress Tool is a partnership between SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Mesonet, which collects data from Mesonet weather stations located across South Dakota to provide real-time and forecasted measures of environmental risk to livestock.

“Cattle feeders should monitor their livestock closely, make sure they have adequate water supplies and avoid handling as much as possible. Dark-hided, market-ready cattle in pens lacking air flow are at the greatest risk.”

— Warren Rusche, Assistant Professor and SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist

Livestock Management Tips

According to Rusche, other measures producers can put in place to protect livestock include:

  • Be ready early – Starting mitigation measures before situations reach an emergency status will better help cattle adapt to changing environments.
  • Provide additional water capacity – Making certain that a sufficient water supply is available is critically important for the health and welfare of cattle, as they can require 20 gallons of water or more per day when the temperatures exceed 80°F, with at least half of that demand occurring during a short timeframe in the afternoon. Two to four inches of water space per head (or 1000 pounds live weight) is required to ensure cattle have access to enough water. If these conditions are not met by existing facilities, providing additional water tanks may be required.
  • Sprinkler application – Using water application to reduce the effects of heat stress has proven to be effective. Applying water early in the day provides opportunities to create a cooler pen surface and dissipate heat before temperatures peak. However, this does create potential for muddier pen surfaces, particularly during high-precipitation summers or in poorly drained pens.
  • Reduce energy intake from feed – Lessening the amount of dietary energy consumed by cattle, either by slightly reducing feed intake or decreasing the energy density of the diet, has been shown to help cattle cope with high heat events. Additionally, feeding a greater proportion of the diet later in the day shifts peak metabolic heat load to a time when temperatures are not at their peak.

For more resources or to learn more about livestock heat mitigation strategies, visit the SDSU Extension Extreme Heat webpage.

For more information or questions, contact Warren Rusche, assistant professor and SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist, at warren.rusche@sdstate.edu or 605-688-5452.

View Extreme Heat Resources