Recently Kentuckians have experienced some of the highest heat indices of the season.
Livestock become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees. With heat indices at or above that level, it's critical for producers to be aware of what's going on with the animals.
"The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity and is used to describe how it feels outside," said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. "The University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center regularly monitors heat indices across the state and provides an index of its own — the Livestock Heat Stress Index — to help producers know when heat stress could create a problem for their animals."
Periods of heat stress call for livestock producers to be vigilant in making sure their animals are able to withstand the conditions.
UK College of Agriculture Livestock Specialist Bill Crist recommends providing plenty of fresh water, adequate feed and shade for livestock. He said the most important things producers can do are to provide cool, clean water and shade to help keep animals' internal body temperature within normal limits.
It is also important to keep buildings as open as possible for adequate ventilation. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals also are beneficial.
To keep cattle from becoming overheated, producers should not work cattle during periods of heat stress.
"Certainly, you do not want to work cattle with this kind of weather — veterinarian work, reproductive checks or vaccinations," Crist said.
Farmers should also avoid transporting livestock during a heat danger or emergency period. If they must move animals during this time, they should try to do so with fewer animals per load. To minimize risk, producers should plan trips so they can load animals immediately before leaving and quickly unload them upon arrival.