High temps, humidity bring livestock stress
WORTHINGTON -- Record-setting heat and high humidity will make it virtually unbearable to spend any length of time outdoors over the next several days, and while humans can relax in air-conditioned comfort indoors, the region's livestock herds don't have that luxury.
On days when the thermometer extends beyond 90 degrees and the evening temperatures fail to go below 70 degrees --a combination that will plague the area for the next few days -- cattle are most at risk for becoming overheated.
"Cattle start to see minor stress at 77 degrees," said Mike Boersma, an Extension livestock educator in Pipestone and Murray counties. "A lot of it has to do with humidity. As the humidity goes up, the sweat doesn't evaporate quickly."
While cattle can handle a couple of days of high heat, Boersma said the biggest concern is the length of the heat wave and the ability for cattle to cool off in the evening.
According to the National Weather Service, today's high is expected to reach 95, with an overnight low of 72. High temperatures for Wednesday and Thursday are anticipated to reach 97, with nighttime lows around 74.
"If it starts to have lows in the low to mid-70s and it doesn't cool off, then it's important for producers -- especially beef producers --to use sprinklers or misters," Boersma said. "The key is to get the animals cooled off in the evening or early morning. A lot of times, people will see (cattle) panting about 3 p.m., and by then it's too late."
There are a number of steps livestock producers can take to keep their animals cool during an extended heat wave.
"Providing shade that does not restrict air flow is probably one of the biggest keys," Boersma said. "If cattle on pasture have access to a grove of trees, certainly let them into there during hot periods like this.
"Even if animals can get inside a barn, as long as doors and windows are open, that's enough. They may stand in the doorway, but at least that gives them a little bit of shade," he added.
Making sure livestock have access to clean and cool drinking water is also imperative, and Boersma encourages producers to work with animals as little as possible during the daytime heat.
"Now is the big time for breeding cattle," he said. "Do breeding early in the morning and avoid any additional stress on livestock during the day."
A slight cool-off isn't expected until Saturday, when the daytime high is forecast at 89 degrees. There is a slight chance of showers both Thursday and Friday nights.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.