When animals can’t take the heat

Summer is hot on our heels here in MFA territory. For any livestock operation, heat abatement is critical. Heat stress decreases animal com­fort, health and performance. When temperatures and humidity rise, it’s essential to ensure adequate shade and plenty of water, no matter what type of animals you’re raising.

Here are some important consid­erations by species:

BEEF CATTLE

Compared to other animals, cattle cannot dissipate their heat load very effectively. Cattle do not sweat effectively and rely on respiration to cool themselves. As a compounding factor on top of climatic conditions, the fermentation process within the rumen generates additional heat.

Typically, pastured cattle are not as susceptible to heat stress as feedlot cattle. Pastured cattle have the ability to seek shade, water and air movement to cool themselves. In addition, radiant heat from dirt or concrete surface is increased for feedlot cattle. At temperatures above 80 degrees, cattle endure physiologic stress trying to deal with their heat load. Although cattle at this temperature are not at risk of dying, they will have increased maintenance requirements.

In addition to shade and water, nutrition can help in heat abate­ment. Provide a product with MFA Shield Technology or MFA FesqQ Max mineral. These products have been shown to reduce the effect of infected fescue and increase blood flow, helping the animals stay cooler and out grazing longer.

DAIRY CATTLE

Hot weather can bring a long list of problems for dairy producers. When cows are heat stressed, they eat less, produce less milk, have re­duced immune function and higher somatic cell count, and experience reduced fertility. A spike in lameness often follows warm spells. In severe heat waves, cows can even die.

Recent work from the University of Florida emphasizes the impor­tance of providing heat abatement for non-lactating animals. The studies show cows pass the neg­ative effects of heat stress to their offspring and produce less milk during lactation if they experience increased heat in the dry period.

Providing shade, fans and misters to dairy cattle will promote profit­ability and increased milk produc­tion in your herd across multiple generations. Nutrition also plays a role. In addition to feeding products with Shield, evaluate feeding at least 1.5% potassium in the diet. Do not overfeed nonprotein nitrogen (NPN) supplements. If milk urea nitrogen values are greater than 17, reconsider the amount of NPN fed and evaluate the possibility of pro­viding additional fat in the diet.

In the summer, it is common to see a decline in butterfat test. Feed­ing buffer, such as 4 ounces bicar­bonate with 2 ounces magnesium oxide, will often help, as will feed­ing soluble fiber such as soyhulls, beet pulp and fuzzy cottonseeds.

POULTRY

Birds are subject to heat stress when the air temperature and humidity uncontrollably increase their core body temperature. Heat stress can result in panting, increased water intake and eventually death. Severe heat stress can cause drops in production efficiency and increased mortality rates in your flock. You may notice reduced growth rates, egg production and hatching rates.

Access to cool, fresh water, venti­lation and adjusted feed schedules can help provide relief. Digestion generates heat, and birds will be less likely to eat during the hotter parts of the day. You can supple­ment lost electrolytes by adding them to their water source, if neces­sary. Make sure your flock has plen­ty of space so they aren’t crowded. And keep your birds calm. Don’t let children, dogs or other pets chase or disturb your flock.

Heat stress can also cause a change in egg quality. You may no­tice smaller eggs, thinner shells and overall poor internal egg quality. A hen’s eggshell is made up of more than 90% calcium carbonate. The immediate result of inadequate calcium intake is an increase in cracked eggs and eggs with very thin eggshells. When such prob­lems appear, evaluate calcium intake and utilization. Calcium concentration in the feed, should be 4%. In general, hens require at least 4 grams of calcium per day at the beginning of their cycle and as much as 4.5 toward the end. Using MFA Quality Egg 16 or 18 feeds will reduce the incidence of soft shells in the summer.

Visit with your local MFA feed specialists for more information on how to mitigate the effects of heat stress this summer.

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