Sitting on the couch, enjoying the air conditioning and sipping on a cold drink definitely hits the spot for many Oklahomans who have been battling the 100 F plus temperatures outside. However, cattle don’t enjoy those same luxuries.
“We all know that the current heat we are experiencing has been tough on people and animals,” said Al Sutherland, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension assistant specialist. “At the Oklahoma Mesonet, we are in the final stages of bringing a new Cattle Comfort Advisor online.”
Reading a thermometer will tell us it is hot outside, but it will not give us the true story of what it feels like to cattle. The Cattle Comfort Advisor aims to do just that.
“This is not the air temperature, but a best estimate of the temperature cattle are exposed to when impacts are added in for sunlight, wind and relative humidity,” Sutherland said. “These additional weather variables can have a dramatic impact on cattle heating or cooling. This summer, sunlight is adding a big heat load and sending triple digit temperatures to potentially lethal levels for cattle.”
To help cattle through these hot times, it is critical to provide a good supply of water and reduce animal movement. Shade is extremely helpful, he said. It should be a high shade that covers enough area so animals do not bunch. Also, keep close tabs on cattle to see if emergency measures need to be taken, such as wetting the animals to the skin to increase cooling.
“Hot days push an animal's internal heat up,” said Chris Richards, OSU Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist. “Usually, when dealing with cattle heat stress, body temperatures rise over 2 to 3 days when conditions do not allow for cooling during the night to dissipate heat.”
The Cattle Comfort Advisor is scheduled to launch on the Mesonet website (http://www.mesonet.org) next week. The Oklahoma Mesonet consists of 120 automated stations designed to observe and measure the environment every five minutes, 24 hours a day, year-round.
“The Cattle Comfort Advisor maps will give farmers and ranchers a better idea of the heat stress their cattle are experiencing,” Sutherland said. “This will be an extremely valuable tool for managing cattle.”