News & Advice

Signs of heat stress and other welfare complaints

Dec 5, 2019 | Beef cattle, Bulls, Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare, Grazing youngstock, Sheep

Mother Nature is certainly showing us some of the warm days we all love over Summer. Whilst we really enjoy these days, and think they are perfect for going to the beach with the family, do spare a thought for your livestock.

Whilst human comfort range in temperatures is in the range of 22 – 27 degrees Celsius this is not true for our farm animals. Cattle have a comfort range of 4 – 20 degrees Celsius and sheep are similar depending on how much wool they are carrying.

The temperate climate of New Zealand usually provides good conditions for Sheep and Beef cattle. However, there are times like these hot days that are ideal for being at the beach where the climate is not so suited. On these days, just imagine yourself spending all day out where your stock does. Would you suffer from heat stress or is there adequate water and shade for you to stay cool in? Heat stress can have a major impact on the feed conversion efficiency, growth rates, grazing patterns and milk production.

Animals have a range of responses to cope with hot and humid climatic conditions. Typically, warm conditions result in an increase in blood circulation through the skin, sweating and/or panting, postural changes such as lying down, increased water consumption and behavioural changes. For example, seeking shade during the warm part of the day and grazing during the night or during dawn and dusk. If the heat load continues to rise, animals will progress to open-mouth panting, and when severe their tongues will be extended. If relief cannot be achieved, core body temperature rises (hyperthermia) and they may die.

During these times we need to be make sure we don’t compound these issues with our management practices. This means ensuring there is adequate clean palatable water available, enough good quality food that their requirements can be met with shorter grazing times, shade provided for them to shelter under and mustering or moving paddocks during the coolest parts of the day.

To optimise your summer plan, and minimise the impacts heat stress has on your farm, please get in contact with your local Anexa Vet.

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