As we move forward into the summer months, the heat and humidity are cranking up. Majority of the cattle in our county are Bos Taurus cattle (ie Angus, Charolais, etc.), which are very sensitive to high temperature and high humidity. With that, it is wise for producers to consider their summer management practices to help their herds thrive. In this article we will explore some of those practices.
1. Maintain a clean water supply and check it routinely. Studies have shown an increase in cattle gains when clean, fresh water is available versus stream or pond water sources. It’s best to place water sources in a shaded area where cattle naturally congregate in the heat, if possible, and that there’s plenty of trough space for your herd. A good rule of thumb is to have enough trough space for 15% of the herd to drink out of at one time. If your cattle have to travel long distances to the water source, you should double the trough space. Consider the color of your water troughs, too. Black or dark colored tanks and pipes can increase water temperature above 90 degrees on hot summer days. If those are your only options, it is recommended to place them in a shaded area.
2. Provide natural or artificial shade where possible. If adding artificial shade, place it in areas of higher ground where air movement will be best.
3. Reduce Stress whenever possible. Try not to work cattle more than necessary during hot weather. When you have to work your cattle, do so during the early morning or at night when it’s cooler. When transporting cattle, plan your transports during the cooler parts of the day and don’t crowd the cattle in the trailer. Be sure water will be available when you unload your cattle.
4. Prevent/Control Pinkeye. Clip tall, mature grass, use adequate fly control measures, treat problems quickly, and consider vaccinating your herd.
5. Control Flies. Methods may include back rubbers, sprays, dust bags, pour-ons, insecticide ear tags (two per animal), and/or a salt-mineral mix containing oral larvicide.
6. Tall-Fescue Management: Fescue toxicosis has many symptoms, one of which increases the body temperature of the animal. The endophyte concentration is greatest when the grass goes to seed, so clipping fescue before it goes to seed is crucial. Early grazing pressure, harvesting fescue for hay before it goes to seed, and clipping fescue in the “boot stage” can help reduce the endophyte concentration.
7. Watch for signs of Fescue Toxicosis, which include lower feed intake, lower gains, rough hair coats, lower milk production, reduced reproduction performance, more time spent in shade and water, and necrosis of hooves and tails. Rotate animals out of these pastures when endophyte is at its peak or at least provide quality hay if you suspect fescue toxicosis. See UT Publication SP 439-A “Tall Fescue: Endophyte-Infected or Endophyte-Free?” and UT Publication SP 434-E “Tall Fescue, Orchardgrass, and Timothy” for more information on the endophyte and Tall Fescue management.
8. Watch for signs of heat stress, which are lethargy, panting for breath, and/or mouth open with excess saliva hanging from the mouth. If signs of heat stress are exhibited, take every effort to cool the animal immediately. Examples include spraying with water, moving the animal to an area with better air movement (ex: under a fan), or providing artificial shade if the animal is unable to be moved.
If you need assistance or guidance on how to manage your herds this summer, please call the UT Extension office at 931-722-3229.
**USDA/FSA has offered webinars on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for producers to attend. Recordings of the presentations will be available on their website at https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/outreach-and-education/webinars/. The CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process. The call center number is 877-508-8364.