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Cattle on pasture in Nebraska Thinkstock/ThinkstockPhotos

Keep cattle cool on hot summer days

Tips for farmers to use to help cattle cope with extreme heat conditions.

Summer is here and the temperatures have increased considerably in recent days. After a cool spring that felt good to most people, many cattle that haven’t adapted to warmer weather still have remnants of a winter hair coat. “To those animals, the increasing temperature will be an unwelcome change,” says Grant Dewell, Iowa State University Extension cattle veterinarian.

As expected, temperatures reached the mid- to upper 90’s across Iowa this past weekend and into this week. Although cattle should be able to tolerate the heat, it's a good reminder that more is yet to come and this year’s cool spring may turn to a hot dry summer. “This early heat event is a good opportunity to make sure that your mitigation strategies will be functional for the rest of the summer,” says Dewell. He points out that the Iowa Beef Center website has information and details on proper heat abatement strategies such as shade and sprinklers.

Pay particularly close attention to “at-risk” cattle. The rapid change in temperature is especially difficult for these animals as they have to deal with excessive heat stress. At-risk cattle are those at end of their feeding period, cattle with previous respiratory disease problems and cattle that have not fully shed out their winter coats. 

Check out these additional resources
Heat Stress in Beef Cattle is a 4-page publication authored by Dewell. It is available as a free download at USDA ARS 7-day heat stress forecast. A USDA smartphone app provides forecasts of weather conditions that can trigger heat stress in cattle. It is available as a free download from Google Play (Android) and the App Store (Apple devices).

The Iowa Beef Center at ISU was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state’s beef cattle industry. It comprises faculty and staff from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, ISU College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. The IBC works to develop and deliver the latest research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information about IBC, visit

Source: Iowa State University

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