5 Ways to Head Off Heat Stress

When the weather heats up, dry matter intake drops, and so can milk production and cattle performance. This often occurs during the summer months as cattle change their feeding behavior to help keep cool. Cattle generate their own metabolic heat, which means they may feel the stress of heat earlier in the year.

When temperatures start to rise, producers can make quick—and inexpensive—changes to keep feed intake, animal performance and reproductive efficiency up. The following five changes can help producers fight the effects of heat stress and minimize digestive disruptions.

1. Increase availability of water. Make sure water is cool, readily available, and clean. Check water trough refresh rates ensuring beef cattle have at least 3 inches of linear water space per animal.

  • Keep water temperature below 77° F as intake is known to drop at higher temperatures.
  • Clean water is also important; cattle are put off by manure or other debris in their water sources, which can limit intake and can negatively affect health and performance.

2. Feed when it is cool. Producers can feed twice daily to help maximize intakes. Ideally, more of the ration should be offered at the coolest part of the day—around 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

3. Guard against sorting. If feeding a total mixed ration (TMR), ensure the forage component cannot be sorted out and perform regular feed bunk push-ups to encourage access and intake.

4. Don’t feed hot silage. Aerobically unstable silage can cause the entire ration to heat. Cattle simply don’t want to eat hot feed in the summer. Plus, hot silage is a sign that valuable nutrients have been lost. To minimize spoilage, feed out at a rate fast enough to avoid heating and discard all moldy silage. For future harvests, producers can use an inoculant— like those found in the  AGNIVA® range—to help ensure nutrients are retained, and silage is cool and palatable.

5. Maximize digestion. Adding an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic— like LEVUCELL® SC, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077—can improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion in cattle.

In fact, studies with feedyard cattle fed S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 had 1.4 percent better feed conversion ratio with significantly better results when cattle were fed higher fiber levels and rations containing ionophores. In addition,  LEVUCELL SC significantly increased average daily gain by 2.1 percent in finishing cattle. 3Summer grazing stocker cattle fed LEVUCELL SC through loose-mineral were shown to have more consistent mineral intake levels plus a 3.5 percent gain improvement as compared to controls. Probiotics are especially helpful for producers experiencing
health challenges from heat or other stressors. When heat stress occurs, normal rumen and immune function is disrupted. This worsens the already significant effects of heat stress in cattle. With simple changes, producers can help cattle continue to perform even under heat stress conditions.