Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #226067

Title: Development of a graphical web-based heat stress forecast for feedlot cattle

item Eigenberg, Roger
item Brown Brandl, Tami
item Nienaber, John - Jack

Submitted to: Proceedings of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International (ASABE)
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/9/2008
Publication Date: 7/7/2008
Publication URL:
Citation: Eigenberg, R.A., Brown Brandl, T.M., Nienaber, J.A. 2008. Development of a graphical web-based heat stress forecast for feedlot cattle. Amer. Soc. of Agric. and Biol. Eng. Paper No. 083887. St. Joseph, MI: ASABE.

Interpretive Summary: Weather conditions in the summer can lead to heat stress in cattle raised in outdoor pens. Cattle producers were able to receive livestock weather alerts from various media sources until that service was discontinued in the early 1990’s. To fill this need, a website was developed that provides producers access to forecast maps that show predicted heat stress for cattle, up to seven days in advance. The forecast maps combine predicted temperature, humidity, cloud cover and wind speed to depict anticipated heat intensity as a color-coded map. Additionally, the website provides information about detecting heat stress, risk factors for cattle, and steps to take before or during a heat event. This new website helps cattle producers anticipate heat stress events so they can take action to reduce their impact.

Technical Abstract: Until the mid 1990’s, livestock producers had access to National Weather Service (NWS) livestock weather warnings through local news outlets. The heat stress warnings were forecasts based on predicted temperature and humidity values (temperature humidity index – THI). After this service was discontinued producers were left to interpret weather data on their own. To fill this need, livestock weather warnings (based on THI) were made available through several university web sites. However, THI is limited because it does not account for the effects of sun intensity or wind speed. Recent research conducted at USMARC (US Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE) resulted in a physiological-based model to predict level of feedlot cattle heat stress based on four weather parameters: 1) temperature, 2) humidity, 3) sun intensity, and 4) wind speed. This new index uses weather forecast information, available from the National Weather Service, to predict the intensity of summer heat events for the Central Plains region (South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Western Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Northern Texas) of the United States, up to a week in advance. The prediction equation in combination with the NWS weather data is displayed as a color-coded livestock stress map with four stress categories (Normal, Alert, Danger, and Emergency) depicted across the Central Plains region. The graphical display has been available on the USMARC website since June, 2007. The result of this work provides guidance in management decisions for cattle feeding operators. This paper describes the development and content of that web page.