Cattle suffer from heat stress - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cattle suffer from heat stress

July 19, 2006

Lee County -- With the nation in the grips of a heat wave, people aren't the only ones suffering. It's hard on animals, too. Here in South Georgia, dairy farmers are making sure their cows are cool, and not just for their health.

They eat, they sleep, and they make milk. But for a dairy cow, their performance may be in trouble when it get's hot.

"These gals weren't in this barn they'd probably be making 45-50 pounds of milk instead of 65," said Mark Saulter.

Mark Saulter at Oak Hill Dairy Farm says hot weather lowers a cow's milk production, body weight and ability to reproduce. But there are ways to counter the weather's effects.

On a typical South Georgia summer day it can be more than a hundred degrees outside, which isn't very comfortable for cattle. But under a barn with the fans blowing and the sprinklers running it can be 10º-15º cooler.

For those who don't keep cattle in a free stall barn with fans and sprinklers, Doug Collins of the Lee County extension says there are other ways for farmers to keep their livestock healthy in the heat.

"It's good to keep them where they can have adequate shade, if you have to transport them transport them at night or in the early morning hours, make sure they have plenty of water at all times," said Lee County Extension officer director Doug Collins.

Something for dairy farmers like Mark Saulter to keep in mind. Aside from providing water and shade, he feeds his cows a special mix of vitamin-enriched feed, which also keeps their temperature down.

"This is our paycheck, the better job we do with these animals the better they are going to take care of us," said Mark Saulter.

That care includes keeping the cows cool outside, and keeping milk production at it's best.

Agriculture experts say to watch for signs of heat stress in your cattle. Some signs to looks for include a reduced milk production, lethargy or rapid, shallow breathing. Any of these signs can occur when temperatures reach 80º to 90º.

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