Keeping Cattle Cool and Stress-Free is Goal of ARS
By Chris Guy
March 25, 2010
Identifying the causes of heat stress
in cattle and finding ways to manage it are the goals of
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators who are helping producers deal with this significant
Heat stress can have serious consequences. While some cattle exhibit little
or no response to it, others may experience diminished appetite and feed
intake, reduced growth rate, compromised disease resistance and, in extreme
Extremely high temperatures overwhelm an animal's natural ability to
regulate its body temperature. But other factors are involved, and
understanding them is essential for predicting, preventing and responding to
potential heat-stress scenarios, according to scientists at the ARS
L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Neb.
There, scientists are working together with cooperators to develop
risk-assessment tools and management strategies for producers. This work has
three main components: analyzing animal susceptibility, identifying
contributing environmental factors, and evaluating management techniques.
In one study, USMARC agricultural engineer
Brown-Brandl and colleagues conducted several studies to identify factors
that contribute to animal susceptibility to heat stress. They identified 11
influential factors, including coat color, health history, and temperament.
In another study, Brown-Brandl and USMARC agricultural engineers
Nienaber looked at environmental factors affecting the intensity of heat
stress. They developed a model that incorporates predictions of how
temperature, humidity, sun intensity, and wind speed will affect heat stress.
The model is available online at:
more about this research in the March 2010 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. The research
supports the USDA priorities of promoting international food security and
responding to climate change.