Cattle well-being and performance is negatively impacted by extreme heat stress. Introducing shade as a mechanism to mitigate this is one way to offer relief.
Heat waves in the US have caused widespread death in cattle. After the 1995 heat event in Iowa, it was found that non-shaded lots experienced a much higher death toll than shaded lots (4.8% and 0.2% respectively). Cattle that do survive periods of extreme heat experience reduced productivity, resulting in economic loss. In 2003, a study found that an estimated $1.69-2.36 billion was lost in the livestock industry due to heat stress.
As well as the effect on the economy, global temperature increase has become another driving force behind discussions on heat stress and animal welfare and has cast a spotlight on the importance of developing and implementing mitigation strategies, such a shading. Whilst well-reviewed in dairy cows, the research on using shade as a stress reduction strategy in beef cattle is still largely inconclusive. There is some evidence to suggest that shade does reduce heat stress, but industry guidelines are not consistent and as a result, producers can be reluctant to implement these strategies.
Animal welfare is not just about the productivity of livestock. Polsky and von Keyserlingk (2017) illustrated that when a dairy cow is not able to find shade in a hot climate the cow’s ability to express natural behaviors is impacted. The lack of shade will subsequently affect the performance of the cow and reduce productivity. Although based on a dairy cow, these findings have also been applied to beef cows on pasture. Increased attention to their welfare ensures cattle will perform more successfully.
Explore the infographic and related articles below to find out more.
Take a further look into this topic with related articles from the Journal of Animal Science and Translational Animal Science:
- “Heat stress alleviation and dynamic temperature measurement for growing beef cattle”, by Sheyenne M Augenstein, Meredith A Harrison, Sarah C Klopatek, and James W Oltjen. (Translational Animal Science, Volume 4, Issue Supplement_1, December 2020, Pages S178–S181.)
- “The effect of Brahman genes on body temperature plasticity of heifers on pasture under heat stress”, by Raluca G Mateescu, Kaitlyn M Sarlo-Davila, Serdal Dikmen, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Pascal A Oltenacu. (Journal of Animal Science, Volume 98, Issue 5, May 2020, skaa126.)
- “Supplementing an immunomodulatory feed ingredient to improve thermoregulation and performance of finishing beef cattle under heat stress conditions”, by Eduardo A Colombo, Reinaldo F Cooke, Allison A Millican, Kelsey M Schubach, Giovanna N Scatolin, Bruna Rett, and Alice P Brandão. (Journal of Animal Science, Volume 97, Issue 10, October 2019, Pages 4085–4092.)