Mitigating Heat Stress in Livestock

Thinking ahead and taking proactive management actions can help you prepare for the heat and reduce the risk of heat stress on your herd. Having a plan will allow you to minimize the negative impact on your livestock’s health and performance and help them stay comfortable as temperatures continue to rise.

First Clue: Following precipitation, anticipated hot weather with temperatures in the high 80s or 90s (F) can be highly stressful, particularly when accompanied by prolonged periods of low wind speeds.

Second Clue: The temperature-humidity index is projected to exceed 80 Temperature Humidity Index (THI) or 90 Heat Index (HI) indicating high heat stress conditions.

UNL Beef Extension Resources

Third Clue: Overnight temperatures remain above 73°F or three nights in a row of temperatures above 70°F.

Fourth Clue: Observe cattle regularly to pick out the following signs. They begin to move around and look for a more comfortable area. Their respiratory rates increase, and they begin to pant and slobber. Cattle also raise their heads to ease breathing and position their bodies to reduce sun exposure and maximize airflow.


Drinking fresh, cool water is the quickest way to reduce the core temperature of cattle. Have plenty of water and make it quickly available. Before a heat event, put out extra, free-standing water tanks. This will ensure all have access to water and keep them from bunching up. Weekly cleaning of your waterers is essential, ensuring the refill rate and water space are adequate to maximize water intake and prevent dehydration.


Limit cattle processing during extreme heat. Handling times should be scheduled for early mornings, prior to 10 a.m. Work cattle in smaller bunches and at a slower pace. Avoid working cattle in the evening. Cattle need the cool evening hours to release their heat load and won’t be able to do this effectively if stressed by handling


Shades reduce cattle’s exposure to direct sun, ground temperature, and panting scores. Shades should be at least 8 feet tall; however, the taller the shade, the better the airflow. To prevent cattle from making a mud hole, shades should be placed north and south. This ensures that the shaded ground is not in the same place all day. It’s important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of shades varies significantly based on location and the intensity of summer heat.


Sprinklers can be utilized to reduce the animal’s core temperature and ground temperature. Sprinklers should put out large droplets to wet the cattle to the hide. They should be turned on for short periods of time. Spray cattle earlier in the day, before the hottest period. In an emergency, wet the pen floor. Avoid directly spraying hot cattle with cold water. Pay attention to your environment, as sprinklers can do more harm than good in areas of high humidity and moisture. It’s important to observe the quantity of water being sprayed, as too much water can create a mud hole. Covering part of the cattle’s hide with mud acts as an insulator, which is counterproductive.


Offer the majority of feed after peak daily heat. Feeding can be done as 30% of the daily allowance in the morning and 70% in the evening. This allows heat generated from digestion to happen during the cooler parts of the day, reducing the cattle’s need to eat and move during the hottest hours.


Capsicum, a feed additive, fights heat stress through vasodilation. The product widens blood vessels which increases blood flow to extremities allowing cattle to dissipate heat.

Capsicum promotes water intake and has a positive effect on gastrointestinal tract health. The feed additive also promotes smaller and more frequent meals, which spreads out heat load and helps maintain better consumption.

Capsicum is available in select feed products through Allied Nutrition. Contact an Allied Nutrition representative today and start providing the best product that matches your operation.