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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Livestock Production System Management Responses to Thermal Challenges

Authors
item Nienaber, John
item Hahn, G - COLLABORATOR, ARS

Submitted to: International Journal of Biometeorology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 15, 2006
Publication Date: December 1, 2007
Citation: Nienaber, J.A., Hahn, G.L. 2007. Livestock production system management responses to thermal challenges. International Journal of Biometeorology 52:149-157(2007), doi 10.1007/s00484-007-0103-x.

Interpretive Summary: Livestock production in hot weather has risks of loss. Methods to reduce these risks are discussed and include shade, sprinkling, and watching animal behavior. Successful operations are prepared by learning important weather factors, knowing signs of animals in stress, and having a method to relieve that stress on hand. The best options for dealing with stress depends on the production system. Understanding the costs of providing stress relief must be compared with the costs of not providing it. If not affordable, changing to another type of operation might be most appropriate. The goal of this research is to develop the tools needed to make those decisions.

Technical Abstract: The adaptive capabilities of animals and livestock production systems have been emphasized in this report. Biometeorology has a key role in rational management to meet the challenges of thermal environments. While the focus is primarily on cattle in warm or hot climates, the importance of dynamic animal responses to environmental challenges applies to all species and climates. Methods used to mitigate environmental challenges focus on heat loss/heat production balance. Under cold stress, reduction of heat loss is the key. Under heat stress, reduction of heat load or increasing heat loss are the primary management tools, although heat tolerant animals are also available. In general, the most productive animal (e.g. highest growth rate or milk production) is at greatest risk of heat stress, thereby requiring the most attention. Risk management, by considering perceived thermal challenges, then assessing the potential consequences and acting accordingly, will reduce the impact of such challenges. Appropriate actions include: shade, sprinkling, air movement, or active cooling. Summarizing, the most important element of proactive environmental management to reduce risk is preparation: be informed, develop a strategic plan, observe and recognize animals in distress, and take appropriate tactical action.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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