Hot temperatures and a recent heat wave have amped up drought conditions in many areas of the country. University extensions are providing advice and tools to help producers care for their livestock as the mercury rises.
To assist livestock operators, a professor from the University of Missouri has developed a smartphone app to monitor beef and dairy cows. Don Spiers, a professor in the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, created the ThermalAid app to help producers observe animals and intervene when animals are in danger due to the heat.
The 99-cent app tracks humidity and temperature through its GPS function. The cow’s respiration rate and other determining factors are submitted by the user with the help of tools available on the app.
With the information available, the app provides the animal’s Temperature Humidity Index, a measure of how the animal is handling the heat. The tool advises the most effective intervention strategies when necessary.
In addition to health concerns, stressed cows will eat less and gain less weight. Dairy cows affected by heat stress can take away from the bottom line by producing less milk.
“Each summer, the dairy industry loses $900 million nationally in productivity and the beef industry $400 million. And that’s data from 2003 when the industry was smaller and summers less intense,” Spiers told CAFNR news.
Beyond the app, other measures taken in extreme heat can keep cattle cool. Iowa State University Extension advises to provide fresh, clean water, shift feeding to provide a higher percentage in the afternoon, provide shade, and sprinkle water on the cows if signs of heat stress arise.
Monitor cows often and be proactive. Taking a reactive approach may be too late.
“Once cattle are in a severe state of heat stress, you may be too late to help them,” cautions Carl Dahlen, a North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist.