From the August 2016 issue of Drovers.

Heat and humidity are two deadly environmental cards Mother Nature deals during the dog days of summer, making it crucial for producers to be aware of the impacts heat stress can have on their cattle.

Here are some tips from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for handling cattle in the summer heat:

Only handle cattle in early mornings.

Two hours after the environmental temperature hits a daily high, cattle’s core temperatures peak—and it takes four to six hours for their core temperature to return to normal. Because of this, it is recommended to do any cattle handling in the early morning hours, before 8 a.m., and never after 10 a.m.

Make it short.

Don’t move cattle great distances. Since movement of cattle during processing will increase their core temperatures, take things slow with low-stress handling techniques. Strategic pen placements are recommended to keep heavier cattle closer to loading facilities.

Work cattle in smaller groups.

Avoid overcrowding holding pens, alleys and working facilities so cattle receive adequate air flow, water and shade. Keep groups of cattle small enough so they aren’t standing too close together. Don’t leave cattle in the holding area much longer than 30 minutes.  

Update facilities.

Shade and sprinkling systems installed in feedyards can greatly reduce the impacts of heat stress on feeder cattle. Spraying cattle with water gives them animmediate relief as the moisture evaporates like sweat. However, cattle might become dependent on sprinkling systems, and suffer from greater heat stress risks if not consistently wetted down. Excess moisture might also create more mud and humidity issues, attract flies, etc. Investing in adequate shading might be the best long-term management strategy. Research published in the 2002 Journal of Animal Science by Mitloehner, Galyean and McGlone, showed a test group of feeder heifers increased dry-matter intake to 21.56 lb. per day in the shade, compared to a 20.94-lb.-per-day dry-matter intake by non-shaded heifers. The shaded heifers also had 50% fewer dark cutters and were more likely to grade Choice.