Cattle ranchers experiencing troubles due to extreme heat

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Heat stress can be very costly to the cattle industry. Here in the heart of Southwest Louisiana, where the sun has been beating down relentlessly, cattle ranchers are grappling with the heatwave.

As the heatwave persists, it’s not just the cattle that are feeling the heat. Ranchers are facing financial hardships as they invest in additional resources to combat the extreme conditions.

Cattle are more sensitive to extreme heat than we might think. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat stress, which affects their digestion, immunity, and overall health.

“So through times of extreme heat kind of like we’re facing right now, the grazing hours that a cow is going to go through are shorter due to wanting to be in the shade, they don’t want to eat while they’re hot,” cattle owner Ryan Danos said.

Less grazing hours means less nutrition. With heat stress, cattle may not show any outward signs, but the impacts on productivity can be devastating.

“We’re going through kind of a drought period right now; the nutrition that’s in front of them is not as nutritious as it should be, so in reality, they need to be eating a lot more of it to be getting what they need,” Danos said. “And so we’re kind of getting hurt in two ways right now, hot and lack of nutrition due to lack of rain.”

In fall-calving herds especially, heat stress in late summer and early fall negatively impacts colostrum quality. Poor-quality colostrum leads to increased sickness and decreased growth in calves.

“They’ll be calving here in a month, 3 weeks; when those calves hit, the ground will it’ll still be hot, but those cows going to get out and work to be to eat enough to support them and their calf,” Danos said.

Cattle ranchers are also dealing with increased expenses for water, feed, and cooling measures. If the extreme heat continues, the reduced productivity of their herds could have long-term implications.

In the future, genetic selection tools may be available to help select heat-tolerant animals.