If you don’t already know, the count of cattle has gone down by a shocking amount in our state of Kansas. Just about 2,000 of them have died out of a majorly hot weekend in the Southwest. And that is a problematic fact, all across the board. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is confirming the loss and the cause of death pretty legitimately. But it just sucks because with the combination of high temperatures, humidity and wind difficulties are all factors that caused all these cows to pass. All this according to Matt Lara, the communications director for the KDHE. Lara believes that it is always normal to see cattle die from heat, but at such a high number? It’s even higher than usual.
Meanwhile, some other experts have further details of opinions to share about the whole thing. Take A.J. Tarpoff. As a beef veterinarian with the Kansas State University Research and Extension, he states that cattle will always be happy to acclimate to hot temperatures, while other factors like humidity, the diet and the color of hide invariably change the ability of cattle to handle heat. Tarpoff himself is very methodical with what he understands about the cattle in Kansas. “Each animal within a group or pen is not affected the same way. Animals with higher body condition scores, or with darker hides, or finisher steers and heifers that are getting ready to go to harvest are at higher risk of heat stress. So if we feed animals within the wrong period of time, we can actually increase their heat load because the heat of digestion and the heat from the environment are building on top of each other. We want to keep that from happening.”
So how can heat stress of the most shocking kind be prevented?
For starters, there is a problem in handling. If you’re moving cattle after 10 a.m., when it’s way less cool than before that time of night, well then there’s a problem. Also, feeding has to be adjusted radically, as you should really be feeding 70% of the animals’ rations later on. The later, the better. Also, providing water is pretty important. Tarpoff agrees, saying that “Cool, clean and readily-available water is critical during heat stress events. We may have to increase the water tank capacity within a pen to meet these needs with portable water troughs. Producers need to be prepared for that.”