August 1, 2012
Cattle Confinement Structures Reduce Heat Stress – Improve Profit Potential in Hot Weather
No doubt you can remember some of Illinois’ worst summer seasons in years past especially those marked by an excessive heat wave or two that caused cattle losses in the thousands.
It’s a problem that is hardly unavoidable. And other beef producing states also get their share of misfortune at the height of summer punctuating the fact that managing climate conditions is a real challenge and sometimes the results are just the cost of doing business in the beef industry.
Or are they?
In a report in 2007 after examining years of notable heat-related cattle losses across the Midwest including some of the region’s harshest in 1995 and 1999 Terry Mader at the University of Nebraska’s Department of Animal Science outlined the sophisticated losses tied to lethal heat pressure on a herd.
"For each animal that dies from climatic stress” writes Mader “corresponding economic losses approach $5000 due to mortality and associated live animal performance losses."
With today’s high cattle prices the more accurate number is now $7000–$8000 per animal. Apart from the math itself the most compelling point in Mader’s report is that 80 percent of the loss is beyond the baseline cost of the deceased animal.
This sheds new light on the fact that with effective heat management strategies producers can turn this problem so often relegated to “a cost of doing business” into an opportunity for increased revenue and profit potential.
Raise the Roof
Sprinkler systems and shading are some of the most common remedies for heat stress primarily because the lower cost compared to bringing your cattle indoors seems to make sense especially given the fact that severe heat stress may be viewed as only a periodic problem.
But here is where the perception is changing as producers are seeing how investing in a beef barn specifically a monoslope design is proving to not only be an effective remedy against heat stress but also a contributor to Mader’s “live animal performance” in every summer season regardless of how severe the conditions.
The truth being revealed is that mitigating heat with a monoslope is proving to have an ROI that makes it highly cost effective.
Among the beef producers I know who have invested in a monoslope and have monitored the effects summer to summer versus an outdoor herd not only are they not losing cattle to heat but they’re consistently seeing daily gain increases of a half to three-quarters of a pound in mild and severe summers alike.
And here’s why…
The Monoslope Is a Proven Design
Writing in a 2007 issue of Kansas State Veterinary Quarterly beef veterinarian Larry Hollis identifies the leading factors of heat stress among which the most prevalent are temperatures above the 80s low wind speed and lack of cloud cover.
A monoslope preferably sited on a topographical rise when oriented with the high side facing south addresses all of these factors providing shade from the high summer sun while accelerating air flow for ventilation. This formula promotes cattle comfort and by effect the feed efficiency to optimize rate of gain.
It’s a Heat-Stress Solution That Pays
At the end of the day for the 500-head producer who has made money on an outside feedlot the past few years an occasional oppressive heat wave may seem like the lesser of two evils when compared to the cost of erecting a monoslope.
But even if the math is isolated to animal mortality alone the numbers say otherwise.
Let’s say he suffers extreme heat conditions once every four years and only loses ten head at a time. In 20 years he’s out $350000–$400000 or annualized $17500–$20000 a year.
Factoring in the other advantages producers are seeing in their monoslope operation year after year—feed efficiency rate of gain product quality regulatory compliance—the profit potential is even greater.
Summit Livestock Facilities
an FBi Buildings Company