Reduce Cattle’s Summer Stress

Reduce Cattle’s Summer Stress

It’s just plain HOT! Summer always is. It’s that dreadful humidity and even Hereford cattle dislike it. But manage heat stress & you will determine how many cattle are for sale next year.

The high temperatures plus humidity make our cattle uncomfortable. Their body temperature rises and adds stress to their body functions. When the level of stress reaches a certain point, things change. It’s not a good change either!

The cow’s core temperature peaks about two hours after the environmental temperature peaks, and takes four to six hours to return to normal.

Options to Reduce Heat Stress:

  • Work cattle using low-stress handling techniques & only during the coolest part of the day. Processing cattle elevates their body temperature no matter what the weather but in hot humid weather, the costs may be more than just the immediate visual symptoms.
  • Graze paddocks that allow access to barns (shade) or trees during the heat of the day.
  • For thin cattle, supplement their grazing with grain. It’s easier to add body condition to cattle during the summer than during the cold winter. Also, consider that corn and other concentrates contribute less to the heat of fermentation/digestion than hay does. Therefore, cattle actually produce less actual heat when consuming corn than when consuming hay.
  • Clean & cool fresh water will encourage water consumption. More drinking will increase excretion of urine. This also increases the loss of certain minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.


  • Free choice minerals need to be especially available during hot weather. Loose minerals will be more readily consumed than a block form.

Remember the Vet’s Rule: “Mineral that’s a stone’s throw from the water trough.”

(Using a good quality balanced mineral will pay dividends during periods of high stress

such as hot and cold weather, calving, and breeding seasons.)

  • Provide access to shade trees or set up shade cloth like used on greenhouses, until new plans for shade can be made.

Even cattle sitting in the shade feel the heat and humidity that we have had lately. Those cattle that have no place to go, suffer even more.

Abortions are more likely during periods of high temperatures and humidity.

Here is an “over-baked” baby from my farm this summer. By chance, I and a visitor were observing the cattle sitting around the edge of a shady pasture. This cow had just delivered a normal 5 month old fetus. Everything checked out normal on the calf. Vet said “HEAT STRESS. IT”S JUST TOO HOT!” Most cattlemen will never see the fetus because wild varmints will consume it, but they may see the cow show heat in September or October when the weather is cooler. If the cow has been a good producer in the past, save the cow. She’s had a long hot summer!

High temperatures and humidity kills Hereford calves

Unfortunate for our cattle, we can’t provide them with air conditioning or cold showers. We can provide a shade tree though. Yes, it takes time to grow them but the benefits are worth the investment.

If you can’t arrange your pastures around the trees, search out a source for shade cloth material that covers greenhouses. The material with 80-90% shade makes a real difference on the temperature of your cattle. The material isn’t cheap but it buys you time until your shade tree grows.

(More later on when to plant those shade trees and which ones are my top choices.)

Laying out your work schedule on a calendar, can help you avoid these dreadful days in a hot corral.

If you don’t have your corral under a nice shade tree or inside a ventilated barn, working with the weather is the next best thing until those dreams become a reality.                                    Stay cool! -Karen

Want more useful ways to increase your cattle efficiency? Click here to receive All About BEEF emails by me.

Read more posts like this one – Click HERE