June 29, 2010

Throughout the weekend and into next week, Kentuckians will experience high heat indices, especially in the western counties. Livestock become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees. With heat indices at this range, it’s critical for producers to be aware of what’s going on with the animals.

“The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity. That one-two punch makes it hazardous for people and animals,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. “Dew point temperatures above 65 degrees lead officials to declare conditions dangerous for livestock. The UK Agricultural Weather Center regularly monitors heat indices across the state and provides an index of its own – the Livestock Heat Stress Index – to help producers know when heat stress could create a problem for their animals.”

Periods of heat stress call for livestock producers to be vigilant in making sure their animals are able to withstand the conditions. One of the most important things producers can do is provide cool, clean drinking water.

UK College of Agriculture livestock specialist Bill Crist recommends providing plenty of fresh water, adequate feed and shade for livestock to help keep animals’ internal body temperature within normal limits.

It is also important to keep buildings as open as possible for adequate ventilation. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals also are beneficial.

To keep cattle from becoming overheated, producers should not work cattle during periods of heat stress.

“Certainly, you do not want to work cattle with this kind of weather – veterinarian work, reproductive checks or vaccinations,” Crist said.

Producers should also avoid transporting livestock during a heat danger or emergency period. If they must move animals during this time, producers should try to do so with fewer animals per load. Planning trips so producers immediately can load animals before leaving and quickly unload upon arrival can help minimize the risk. 

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