In the midst of the heat wave, the National Agri-Food Health and Quality Service (SENASA) gave crucial recommendations to livestock producers to counteract the harmful effects of heat stress on animals intended for consumption. They pointed out that it causes physiological changes, which threaten the health and well-being of national livestock production.
In this context, SENASA highlighted the natural adaptation of animals to environmental challenges, including temperature changes. However, in extreme conditions, adaptation mechanisms fail and generate excess heat that threatens internal balance.
Heat stress, a physiological and behavioral phenomenon, arises when animals face environmental conditions that exceed their thermal comfort zone.
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Faced with this scenario, animals respond by reducing physical activity, increasing respiratory rate and modifying their eating and water consumption habits. Seeking shade and increasing panting and salivation become instinctive strategies to counteract the overwhelming heat.
Despite these adaptations, heat stress can have devastating consequences for livestock production, from a decrease in feed efficiency to an increase in the risk of diseases and mortality, the national organization explained.
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In this context, SENASA highlighted the uniqueness of each animal when facing thermal stress. Intrinsic factors such as age, color and hair length determine susceptibility to heat.
In addition, he warned that those most affected are those with greater accumulation of body fat. He highlighted cattle with black coats and finishing stages as the most likely to suffer the consequences of extreme heat.
The choice of the type of diet plays a crucial role in the prevention of heat stroke, since grazing toxic pastures and eating high-calorie rations significantly increase the risk, according to SENASA. (Photo: SENASA).
Nutrition emerges as a key defense against heat stress in livestock
They also explained that diet plays a crucial role in preventing heat stroke. Grazing in areas with toxic pastures, such as fescues or infected by ergoalkaloid-producing fungi, as well as the administration of high-calorie rations, increase the risk of heat stress in livestock.
In response, SENASA advised producers to provide sufficient shade spaces for all cattle, highlighting the effectiveness of the shade provided by trees, which not only reduces radiation, but also reduces air temperature thanks to evaporation from the leaves.
The provision of artificial shade should allow air flow and guarantee adequate space for each animal, avoiding overcrowding in areas of 2 to 4 square meters per head.
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In this sense, they stressed the importance of guaranteeing fresh, clean and abundant water for livestock as a measure to prevent heat stress. They considered that an adult bovine consumes around 7% of its live weight in water daily. In this sense, SENASA urged producers to carry out water analysis to avoid concentrations of salts that could trigger rejection of its consumption.
Strategic cooling of the farm, carried out early in the morning or during the night with an adequate flow rate to penetrate the coat, stands out as an effective measure according to SENASA to prevent thermal stress in beef cattle. (Photo: SENASA).
Finally, they emphasized the importance of avoiding stressful handling of livestock, proposing herding in a calm manner and respecting the rhythm of the animals. They also recommended carrying out bull runs and work in pens first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, providing water and food in the pens.
“Checking the weather forecast before scheduling tasks and proper planning helps minimize the time animals spend in pens and pens,” they noted.