Heat-stressed cows may have premature calves

Absence of grass adds to cattle stress

Missouri farmers have been cautioned to watch for premature births of calves caused by heat stress on pregnant cows.

“Pregnant cows under stress need to be watched closely,” said David Patterson MU beef production specialist.

Patterson said cows stressed by recent extreme heat can cause them to deliver calves early.

Callaway County beef producers are not yet experiencing unusually high early calves but they are keeping a watchful eye on herds.

“We have not yet had a problem with premature births of calves so far this year. The biggest problem the extreme heat and drought has caused has been the lack of decent forage for our animals,” John Smart of Smart Angus Farm near New Bloomfield said Monday.

“We have registered Angus cattle and we started feeding some hay in June. We mainly wanted to make use of some existing round bales of hay still in the field at that point but in July we started feeding more hay,” Smart said.

He said two of the three farms where he has cattle are 100 percent dependent upon deep well water at this point. “The wells are holding on so far,” Smart said.

Smart said the effects of the heat will continue into next year. He believes some cows won’t breed at their normal time because of the heat. Next year he is expecting fewer calves. Many farmers with a lack of water and forage will have to liquidate some or all of their herd, leading to fewer calves next year. “In the past the dry weather was mainly around Texas. But this year it is far more widespread throughout the Midwest,” Smart said.

Higher current prices for beef cattle, he said, can also tempt more cattlemen to thin their herds.

Smart said so far not many of his 60 cows he and his father have on three farms are calving prematurely because of the heat.

“Milk production of cows for calves is certain to be down because of the high heat, and calves will weigh less. Trying to feed calves to put on weight also is difficult because their appetites are less because of the stress of the heat,” Smart said.

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