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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Recognizing Heat Stress
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Recognizing Heat Stress

Pictured below are cattle displaying increasing levels of heat stress.  A description of typical behaviors is associated with each level. Vulnerable animals will show stress symptoms early. Varying stages of stress will be evident throughout the herd as environmental conditions become more intense.  As more animals display signs of increasing heat stress, action should be taken.

 

Normal
  • no signs of heat stress

 

 

Stage 1
  • elevated breathing rate

 

  • restless

 

  • spend increased time standing

 

 

Stage 2

 

  • elevated breathing rate

 

  • slight drooling

 

  • most animals standing in pen and restless

 

  • animals may group together

 

 

 

 

Stage 3
  • elevated breathing rate

 

  • excessive drooling or foaming

 

  • most animals standing in pen and restless

 

  • animals may group together

 

 

 

 

Stage 4
  • elevated breathing rate

 

  • open mouth breathing

 

  • possible drooling

 

  • most animals standing in pen and restless

 

  • animals may group together

 

 

 

Stage 5
  • elevated breathing rate with pushing from flanks

 

  • open mouth breathing with tongue protruding

 

  • possible drooling

 

  • most animals standing in pen and restless

 

 

 

 

Stage 6
  • open mouth breathing with tongue protruding

 

  • breathing is labored, and respiration rate may decrease

 

  • cattle push from flanks while breathing

 

  • head down

 

  • not necessarily drooling

 

  • individual animals may be isolated from herd

 

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Gaughan, J. B., Holt, S. M., Hahn, G. L., Mader, T. L., and Eigenberg, R. A. 2000. Respiration Rate - Is it a good measure of heat stress in cattle? J. Anim. Sci. 13: 329-332.

Mader, T. L., Davis, M. S., and Brown-Brandl, T. M. 2006. Environmental factors influencing heat stress in feedlot cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 84: 712-719.

Silanikove, N. 2000. Effects of heat stress on the welfare of extensively managed domestic ruminants. Livestock Production Science 67: 1-18.

 


Last Modified: 7/9/2007