June 13, 2016

(Dr. Dan) Hi there and welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and today, we’re gonna have a great show. Dr. Chris Reinhardt, who is the Feedlot Extension Specialist for the state of Kansas, is gonna join is. We’re gonna talk about heat stress in beef cattle and feed yards and beyond. Stay tuned for the show.

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(Dr. Dan) Welcome to the show. (Chris) Thank you, sir. (Dr. Dan) It’s great to have you here, Dr. Reinhardt, and Dr. Chris Reinhardt is the Extension Feedlot Specialist for the state of Kansas and he’s a good friend and colleague and we snagged him today to stop by and we’re gonna talk about heat stress in feeder cattle and it’s one of those things that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and how bad. (Chris) That’s exactly right, especially here in the center of the U.S., it’s gonna get hot. It always does. (Dr. Dan) Yep. So when you’re starting to talk about heat stress because, you know, cattle, you know, they seek shade and they get in the ponds and the different things of this nature, but what are some of the things that are driving heat stress and, I mean, from if I’m standing there trying to look at the weather radar or I’m looking at a weather report, what are some of the things I need to be focused on? (Chris) There’s really four things and I’ll add a fifth. The first is obviously the actual outside temperature. Second is the relative humidity. Third is the amount of wind or breeze that’s available and fourth is the amount of direct sunlight and by reverse, the amount of cloud cover that’s out there, but the fifth one is how many consecutive days of really stressful conditions we have in a row. (Dr. Dan) Okay, so it can be a heat building effect in these animals, not necessarily a one real hot day and cause issues. (Chris) Exactly and the more of these days we stack up one on top of another, especially if it doesn’t cool down at night, we can expect some, at very least, a very poor performance from the cattle and beyond. (Dr. Dan) And in the more humid areas as well, we have less of a chance of those animals to recover. We get to those arid climates out in the western Kansas, west Texas and things to that desert type, low humidity, really cools off in the evening compared to those sticky Midwest summer nights. (Male) As we get from the middle of Kansas, the middle of Texas on east, that’s where the humidity really becomes oppressive. (Dr. Dan) Yeah. So when we’re talking about temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, those are the three components that make up what we call the Thermal Heat Index, right? (Chris) Correct. (Dr. Dan) And, so, as heat goes up, as humidity goes up, we have an increase kind of like wind chill, the opposite of wind chill, you know, but how do we use that? (Chris) Real easy figuring is I like to stop working cattle when the blend of heat and humidity is really uncomfortable for us as human beings. We can do the complicated formula, but if it’s extremely warm and even if there’s humidity, but if there’s a nice ten mile an hour continuous breeze, the cattle are gonna remain relatively comfortable. It’s when the humidity goes up and the breeze shuts off that the cattle will really struggle. (Dr. Dan) So that’s when we got to start making some management decisions and things in our day-to-day management systems or processing crews are gonna have to make some changes. Great points. We’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’re gonna talk more with Dr. Reinhardt about heat stress and feeder cattle. You’re watching DocTalk. We’re glad you joined us.

(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to the show, folks. Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and I’m joined by State Feedlot Extension Specialist, Dr. Chris Reinhardt who is an Associate Professor over in the Department of Animal Science and Industries and we spend a lot of time on the road. We were just out in Scott City. We’ve been out in different parts of the country. We’re talking about heat stress. (Chris) It’s that time of year, Doc. (Dr. Dan) I know and when we start heading into summertime and things to that, I hear people say, Well it probably won’t get hot this summer, might not get cold this winter, but guess what, it does, doesn’t it? (Chris) Every year and really there’s one of the things we love about agriculture is it’s different every day, but the other thing we love about agriculture is it’s the same every year. (Dr. Dan) We just have a short memory. (Chris) Very short. (Dr. Dan) Anyway, we’re gonna talk about one of the things I wanted Chris to address with us today is talk about clinical signs and the subclinical signs of heat stress, so let’s start out with the clinical signs. Well this is an animal that’s obviously had enough fun in the sun and now we’re talking, it’s in heat stress mode, so what are some of the things that you would gage just looking across the herd? (Chris) Depending on which end of the scale you want to start with, Doc, but as soon as we start to see the sides of cattle moving up and down, especially rapidly, we know that animal has entered into, technically the term is heat stress. They may not be their life isn’t in jeopardy or anything to that nature, but they’re clearly having to expend energy just to cool off. (Dr. Dan) So they’re gonna be panting and, you know, I didn’t know, I mean, that’s how they cool their body is through the panting, but, you know, the other thing is cattle have sweat glands and I did not know that till we were studying a deal on anatomy and their sweat glands are located in the armpits and in the crotch area just humans and, so, you know, there’s that opportunity to cool as well. (Chris) That panting, it’s like you say, they’re evaporating moisture. Just a lot more efficient to get rid of heat than the sweating does, but both are critical. (Dr. Dan) You bet, you bet. So those are some of the clinical signs that we’re gonna see in these animals. What about the subclinical signs? I mean what are some of the things may not notice, you know, just driving up and down the feed alleys on a day-to-day basis or by your show steers on a day-to-day basis, but these animals, what are some of the subclinical signs? (Chris) Well the thing we can do as cattlemen is sort of step outside our own comfort zone and literally say, If I’m uncomfortable, what about that thirteen hundred pound black hided animal standing out in the sun all day long? They’re probably uncomfortable, even if that side isn’t rapidly moving, we know they’re having to sort of turn-on some systems within their metabolism to get rid of excess heat and the thing we need to remember about that as beef producers is that’s costing performance. (Dr. Dan) Sure. So clinically we can see the animals panting, sub-clinically, it’s gonna be through the loss of performance. (Chris) Exactly. They will eat less when they’re hot and uncomfortable. Frankly, their body is saying, I don’t need a lot of extra energy, so they’re gonna back-off on feed, but then they’re also gonna burn energy just to try and stay cool. (Dr. Dan) Great. After the break, we’re gonna talk more with Dr. Reinhardt about how to alleviate some of the heat stress in these cattle. You’re watching DocTalk and we’re really glad that you joined us.

(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson from the College of Veterinary Medicine here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt who is an Associate Professor over in the Department of Animal Science and Industries here at Kansas State University and Chris is our State Feedlot Extension Specialist and, Chris, we’ve been talking about some of the clinical signs, some of the subclinical signs, but there can be a point in time for these animals where it’s an emergency situation and, so, what are those animals gonna look like that are in dire straights that really need emergency treatment right now? (Chris) I like your word emergency, Doc, because these animals we’re gonna describe, they’re on the verge of potential death. They’re doing everything in their power to get rid of heat, but unfortunately, all those systems are actually generating a bunch more heat. These are the animals you’ll see standing sometimes over top of the water source. They’re got posty leg. They’re trying to expand their chest capacity and their mouth is gapping open and they’re heaving in and out as fast and as hard as they can, especially big, heavy, black hided cattle, it’s time to intervene and fast. (Dr. Dan) Well, and, you know, we’ve all seen these animals and you’re right, it’s an emergency situation. It’s something that you can’t develop the plan for these animals when it happens. You need to think ahead to when this is gonna happen and we always encourage that you work with your veterinarian to make sure that you have that emergency plan in place for when such a catastrophe will happen. Now, Chris, what are we wanting to do with these animals? (Chris) We’ve got to get their core temperature down as fast as possible and that’ll most likely involve getting a water hose on the back of these cattle. Secondly, can I get them to shade or can I get shade to them? Again, I keep talking about black hided cattle, it makes a huge difference how dark hided the cattle are. They’re absorbing a tremendous amount of sunlight. Again, we mentioned previously, multiple days in a row. They might not have had a chance to cool down in between those episodes. We’ve got to get them cooled down. (Dr. Dan) Yeah. So shade, water. We’ve built water baths, get water tanks and get fluids in them, different things to that nature. Another treatment that I’ve heard recently for these animals and we had a case with a show steer going down at a fair in heat exhaustion, actually treat him with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, something like dexamethasone has been utilized in emergency situations as well to lessen that core body temp, but, you know, these things are all things that are good to mention. Anything else on these critters or? (Male) Anecdotally, it’s good to get water baths out there, make sure you’re getting a metal tank out there. The cattle, especially if they’re under extreme heat stress, they’re gonna want to get in it and if it’s not made of the right materials, they’ll tear it apart in seconds and, so, all your hard work and money went for nothing, so get a big, round, sturdy tank out there, they’ll use it. (Dr. Dan) We’ve learned that with the rubber tanks where they’ve just jumped in them and gone over the sides, so I think seeing it, getting temporary shade up, you know, are all things. Sometimes they’ll get the ground wet and humidity, raising humidity can be counterproductive, so you want to be really careful on the animals that you pick. You’re watching DocTalk. We’re gonna come back after the break and we’re gonna talk about some preventative measures for heat stress. Thanks for joining us.

(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Chris Reinhardt and we are from Kansas State University and we’re talking about heat stress. We’ve talked about signs, clinical signs, thermal heat index, emergency situations, you know, besides seizing and desisting the activity, so we’re gonna stop processing. We’re gonna stop moving cattle during the hot times of the day. What are some of the other preventative measures that you like to enlist in the home pen or that to prevent heat stress? (Chris) Well we talked previously about black hided cattle, but black hide and hair simply absorbs a ton of sunlight and if we can get those cattle shaded, especially the big cattle. If we can focus on one area of the feed yard, it’s gonna get those cattle that are sixty days from market under some shade and that’s usually enough to keep them from moving into mildly uncomfortable and to clinical extreme emergency situation. (Dr. Dan) So shade, what are some of the other? Water? (Chris) Water is a big one. As you mentioned before, let’s prepare for summer. It seems to come every year. Intake of cattle during normal cool circumstances will be about three times the amount of dry matter the cattle are eating. During the hot summertime, it’s gonna be more like five times, so not quite double their water consumption during those hot periods. We’ve got to prepare for that and make sure we’re gonna have adequate water supply. (Dr. Dan) And we always said, you know, ìIf we don’t have enough water pressure or enough water tank space, things to that, you’re gonna have to make sure that you get a tank that you can increase the water pressure above ground if you have deep wells and then some of the other things is if cattle are bunching around the water tanks, you may have to put a silver tank out in the pen and fill it up to get by during these heat stress months. (Chris) Cattle, especially the bully cattle will hover over those water sources not because they’re needing more to drink. They’re simply breathing over that cool air. (Dr. Dan) It’s cooler. What about wind? How could I increase ventilation of cattle that are in a feeder pen? (Chris) Two things, number one is mounds. We know how great mounds are during wet, muddy conditions. Something somebody smarter than me once said, Cattle don’t lie. They can’t lie, and when you see cattle using shade or when you see cattle using mounds, they should be telling you something, they’re more comfortable in those areas and the thing about mounds in the summertime, even if it’s dry, is cattle can usually get up on top of that mound and find a little bit of breeze. (Dr. Dan) Yeah, the cattle will face the breeze in the summer and they look away from it, put their tail in the breeze in the winter. What about weeds, windbreaks? (Chris) If you’ve got windbreaks in place, I understand in the northern climate where we’re fighting that January blizzard, they’re important, but in the Midwest where we operate, I’m not sure windbreaks are nearly as important as in the wintertime as not having them and having access to wind is during the summertime. (Dr. Dan) Cool. Well I appreciate you being here on the show. You’ve really brought a light to a very serious situation and just through that prevention, don’t work cattle when it gets hot, get them some shade, get them water, build some mounds for ventilation and knock down those weeds and windbreaks, prevent some heat stress. (Chris) It’s important. (Dr. Dan) Thank you and thank you for joining us. Remember if you want to know more about what we do here at the College of Veterinary Medicine, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember to always work with your local practitioner. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. You’ve joined by today on DocTalk. We’re sure glad that you did and I’ll see you down the road.

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