July 20, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

A dangerous heat wave is beginning to build into Kentucky, and livestock producers need to pay special attention to their animals’ needs during this critical time.

University of Kentucky Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy said the livestock heat index is different from the heat index reported on local weather reports. A heat index is not the actual temperature, but rather how hot the humidity makes it feel outside.

"We’re about to see the warmest conditions we have seen in two years,” Priddy said. “Livestock become uncomfortable when our heat index reaches about 90 degrees. The biggest concern is humidity. It could be 120 degrees outside, but if the dew point is low enough, animals will be fine."

Priddy said usually dew points above 65 degrees lead officials to declare conditions dangerous for livestock. He expects dew points in the 70s with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s this weekend and into next week. Extreme conditions lead to an emergency designation. Western Kentucky will be in the Livestock Heat Index emergency category through the weekend. Central and eastern Kentucky will be in the Livestock Heat Index danger category but may approach the emergency category this weekend.

Livestock specialists at the UK College of Agriculture say the best things to do for livestock during hot and humid weather is to provide plenty of fresh water, adequate feed and shade.

Bill Crist, UK Extension dairy specialist said the most important thing producers can do is provide shade with buildings as open as possible.

"Also, adding fans inside the buildings can help keep air flowing," he said. "When you bring the cows into the milking parlor, don't move them fast and try to keep them calm."

Crist said that all species of livestock will benefit from early morning or evening feeding times to avoid eating in the hottest parts of the day.

One thing some dairy producers are doing is installing sprinkler systems that spray cool water for about three minutes at a time. After the sprinklers shut off, the fans keep blowing and evaporate water and heat off the cows. In moderate heat, sprinklers are off for 15 minutes before coming back on, but in hotter weather, Crist said the off time can be reduced to provide more relief.

"Providing cool clean water is probably the most important thing all producers can do on hot days," said Patty Scharko, UK Extension veterinarian. "Providing good shade is a close second. Put hay close to popular shade areas so the animals will eat that instead of any poisonous plants that may be present in those areas."

Crist said it's important for producers to avoid transporting animals in hot weather. Traveling can put the animals under added stress and cause more problems down the road.



Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Bill Crist 859-257-7543
Tom Priddy 859-257-3000, ext. 245