Cattle Welfare in Extreme Weather: Our Custom Cattle Feeding Approach for Performance and Health

Introduction: A Pledge to Cattle Comfort and Resilience

Amid the sweltering heat of summer and the biting cold of winter, the lives of cattle unfold in a delicate balance. At the heart of their journey lies a fundamental challenge: the battle against nature's extremes. Heat stress during scorching months and the rigors of wet and cold conditions demand unwavering attention. Yet, for a custom cattle feeding company, the concern extends beyond mere survival—it's about crafting an environment where each animal thrives.

In this exploration, we journey into the realm where cattle's comfort and vitality intersect. We shed light on the myriad ways in which extreme heat can cast its shadow, affecting not just the cattle's well-being but their entire performance spectrum. Together, we delve into the arsenal of strategies wielded by dedicated cattle feeding companies to forge a defense against these challenges. Our focus? Ensuring that the health and productivity of these animals stand unwavering against nature's trials.

As we shift seasons, we unveil a new frontier: the battle against the cold, the wet, the elements that test resilience. At Buffalo Feeders, we don't merely witness the struggle; we shape the narrative. We delve into the meticulous measures, the expert insights, and the powerful network of the Oklahoma Mesonet that guide our every decision. For us, cattle comfort is not just a checkbox—it's the cornerstone of our commitment. Through this journey, you'll uncover how our dedication to nurturing the cattle's well-being transcends weather, ensuring they emerge not just survivors, but as thriving and vibrant members of our care.

Managing Heat Stress in Cattle Feeding: Ensuring Optimal Performance and Well-Being

“Feeding cattle in the High Plains typically provides great feeding weather. However, mother nature can provide extremes in both cold and hot temperatures. These extremes are rare but can happen. It is up to us as care takers to counteract these extremes providing good animal husbandry." Travis McCarty D.V.M. Buffalo Feeders Consulting Veterinarian

As the temperature rises during scorching summer months, cattle face a significant challenge: heat stress. This phenomenon can have far-reaching effects on their well-being and performance, making it crucial for cattle feeding companies to implement effective strategies to mitigate its impact. In this blog, we'll delve into the various ways extreme heat can affect cattle, and how a custom cattle feeding company addresses these challenges to ensure the health and productivity of the animals.

Understanding Heat Stress and its Effects

Reduced Feed Intake: The Nutritional Conundrum

During periods of extreme heat, cattle's natural behavior is to reduce their feed intake. This instinctive response to high temperatures can result in reduced nutrient intake, subsequently leading to weight loss or severely hampered weight gain. For cattle feeding companies, this poses a critical challenge in maintaining the animals' health and growth.

Increased Water Consumption: A Vital Cooling Mechanism

Cattle, much like humans, rely on water consumption to regulate their body temperature during hot weather. Increased heat prompts these animals to drink more water, helping them cool down internally. However, this surge in water consumption can potentially lead to water shortages if not managed appropriately, posing a risk to both cattle and the operational efficiency of the feeding company.

Heat-Related Illnesses: A Life-Threatening Concern

Heat stress can push cattle beyond their physiological limits, resulting in severe heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and, in extreme cases, heatstroke. These conditions can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of such illnesses is crucial for any cattle feeding operation to ensure the animals' well-being.

Strategies to Combat Heat Stress

Providing Cooling Comfort: Extra Bedding and Shade

Just as extreme cold temperatures demand additional care, extreme heat calls for equally dedicated measures. During periods of scorching heat, our custom cattle feeding company goes the extra mile by providing extra bedding. This not only offers a cooler resting place for the cattle but also helps prevent heat stress-related issues.

Ensuring Ample Hydration: Extra Water Tanks and Management

To counter increased water consumption, our pens are equipped with additional water tanks. This approach provides extra surface area for drinking, ensuring all cattle have access to much-needed hydration. Additionally, a thoughtful technique of letting water tanks trickle over encourages newer cattle to locate the water source more efficiently.

Healthcare Vigilance: Pen Checkers and Risk Assessment

Our dedicated team of animal healthcare employees, known as pen checkers, plays a pivotal role in managing heat stress. They meticulously inspect and confirm the functionality of all water tanks, leaving no room for oversight. These experts are also trained to identify higher risk animals, such as those with longer hair coats or cattle that have traveled longer distances, allowing for targeted interventions.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Monitoring the Thermal Heat Index

Anticipation is key to effective heat stress management. We proactively monitor the Thermal Heat Index, evaluating the risk it poses. If the forecast predicts a concerning index, we take precautionary measures, such as temporarily halting animal movement, to ensure their safety and well-being.

Time-Sensitive Operations: Early Processing and Heat-Aware Scheduling

Processing operations are strategically planned to occur well before 10 am during the sweltering summer months. This approach minimizes the cattle's exposure to peak heat and ensures their comfort. Moreover, our company demonstrates its commitment to animal welfare by opting not to process cattle on particularly hot days.

Heat stress presents a formidable challenge for cattle feeding companies, but a tailored and proactive approach can make all the difference. By understanding the physiological impacts of extreme heat, implementing innovative cooling strategies, and utilizing data-driven decision-making, our custom cattle feeding company strives to ensure the well-being and optimal performance of the animals in our care. Through these measures, we contribute to healthier, happier cattle and a more sustainable and thriving agricultural industry.

“Buffalo Feeders has done a tremendous job of identifying areas on the yard that are at less risk for heat stress and has placed the higher risk cattle in these pens.” Travis McCarty D.V.M.

The Power of the Oklahoma Mesonet

Understanding Wet/Cold Stress and its Effects

Extreme wet and cold weather conditions also have a substantial impact on cattle performance and well-being. In this section, we explore the meticulous measures we take to ensure the health, productivity, and overall welfare of the cattle entrusted to our care, drawing insights from the invaluable Oklahoma Mesonet network and expert advice.

A Network of Precision Monitoring

The Oklahoma Mesonet, a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring network developed by scientists at the University of Oklahoma ("OU") and Oklahoma State University ("OSU"), empowers us with accurate weather insights. The Oklahoma Mesonet was commissioned on January 1, 1994 and consists of 120 automated stations covering Oklahoma. This expansive network, provides a comprehensive understanding of local weather patterns. There is at least one Mesonet station in each of Oklahoma's 77 counties, including one near our feedyard, allowing us to closely monitor weather forecasts and current conditions to make informed decisions.

Oklahoma Mesonet Heat Index | August 17, 2023

Cattle Comfort Index: A Key Indicator

Central to our approach is the cattle comfort index. This intricate calculation considers variables like air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation to formulate an index value. This value guides us in monitoring and managing conditions for optimal cattle performance. By leveraging these insights, we ensure the cattle are provided with an environment conducive to their well-being.

Mesonet Cattle Comfort Advisor | August 17, 2023

Impact of Wet Cold Weather on Cattle Performance

Dr. Sam Buttram PhD Consulting Nutritionist for Buffalo Feeders says these three factors in winter weather have significant impacts on cattle performance:

1. Cold, wet conditions increase the energy required for cattle to maintain body temperature which in turn leaves less energy for weight gain.
2. High winds and blowing snow or even muddy pen conditions impact eating patterns that can create digestive upset.
3. Periods of high precipitation increase the moisture content of some feedstuffs to the point that it can create digestive problems.

Wet, cold weather in a feedlot can have several impacts on cattle performance. Here are some effects to consider:

1. Decreased Feed Intake

During wet and cold weather, cattle tend to eat less due to discomfort and reduced appetite. This can lead to lower nutrient intake, potentially slowing weight gain and hindering overall performance.

2. Reduced Feed Efficiency

Maintaining body temperature in adverse weather conditions diverts energy away from growth, impacting feed efficiency. This may necessitate increased feed consumption to meet energy requirements, affecting productivity.

3. Elevated Stress Levels

Wet and cold conditions induce stress, weakening the immune system and rendering cattle more susceptible to diseases and infections. Stress can thus undermine overall health and performance.

4. Environmental Challenges

Muddy and wet feedlot conditions pose multiple risks, including hoof problems and reduced mobility. Hoof injuries and slips become more likely, compromising cattle's mobility and well-being.

5. Respiratory Risks

Wet and cold conditions elevate the risk of respiratory illnesses. The combination of dampness and fluctuating temperatures stresses the respiratory system, heightening vulnerability to infections.

Buffalo Feeders' Mitigation Strategies

Shelter, Protection and Ample Bedding

We prioritize providing shelter and windbreaks to shield cattle from direct exposure to snow, rain, and wind, enhancing their comfort and minimizing stress. Increasing bedding offers insulation and keeps cattle dry, safeguarding them from the cold ground and its potential effects.

Effective Drainage

Proper feedlot drainage minimizes standing water and muddy conditions, ensuring healthier environments and reducing the risk of illnesses.

Feeding Program Adjustments

We tailor the feeding program to account for reduced feed intake and increased energy requirements, ensuring that the nutritional needs of the cattle are met. Check out this blog, where we go into the depth's of formulating a cattle's diet!

Close Monitoring and Timely Action

Our vigilant animal healthcare employees closely monitor cattle for signs of stress or illness, responding promptly to any health concerns that arise. Water tanks are managed to prevent freezing, and pen checkers ensure the animals' welfare is upheld.

Targeted Care for Higher Risk Animals

Our teams are trained to identify higher risk animals, such as those with specific breed characteristics, and ensure their needs are prioritized during challenging weather conditions.

Dedication and Commitment

At Buffalo Feeders, our dedicated employees are committed to caring for cattle, regardless of the weather. Our healthcare team's unwavering dedication ensures that your cattle receive the best care, no matter the conditions.


Although extreme weather poses many challenges, with the right strategies and a compassionate team, cattle comfort and well-being can be maintained. At Buffalo Feeders, we leverage insights from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the expertise of industry professionals and the support of our knowledgable, well trained staff, to ensure that our cattle thrive. Even in the face of extreme heat, wet and cold weather! Our unyielding commitment to nurturing environments is a testament to our unwavering passion for exceptional cattle care. Join us in the pursuit of your cattle's optimal health!

Elevate your cattle's well-being with Buffalo Feeders. Contact us today to explore how our dedicated approach ensures your cattle's thriving health and comfort, no matter the challenges of extreme weather. Experience the difference for your cattle's care!

Your Partner in Cattle Care,

~Tom Fanning

Manager of Buffalo Feeders, LLC

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August 24, 2023
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