In spite of improved drought conditions this year, Southwest cattle producers should keep a careful eye on the thermometer as dry, hot days can cause serious health problems that could result in reduced production and even animal death.

“In South Texas we saw a number of 100 degree days as early as April this year, and June temps climbed even higher than that. Combined with high humidity and a lack of wind, heat stress has already been a problem for some ranchers,” reports Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas AgriLife Extension Livestock Specialist in Corpus Christi.

Paschal, who runs cattle at his own South Texas ranch, says heat can be deadly for livestock, especially dark-hided stock like Angus.

“The darker the animal the more heat they absorb, so breed becomes a factor when considering heat stress in your herd. Also, cattle that aren’t from the region are not acclimated to extreme heat, and calves are especially troubled by excessive heat. Heat stress in livestock is a serious condition,” Paschal warns.

The first signs of heat stress are cattle laying down in the shade.

“As they become more stressed, they generally will seek out ponds and tanks they can wade into. In more advanced stages you can see them drooling from the mouth and nostrils and at this point you know you have a serious problem,” Paschal said.

The best protection you can offer heat stressed livestock is to make certain they have plenty of cool water to drink. While cattle may use stock ponds for wading, a source of clean water is a better option for drinking.

“I prefer a deep concrete water tank that has fresh, cool ground water pumped in regularly. The coolness of the water will help cattle shed the body heat and is a much preferred drinking source than a pond that is drying up and overused,” he added.