How to Protect Cattle from Heat Stress

Posted on June 27, 2014

Disease is not the only factor that affects the health of cows; heat stress can be fatal for cows.  Heat stress is a chronic form of stress which can cause depression and metabolic change which results in a damaged immune system, meaning that cows suffering from heat stress are more likely to be affected by illness.

What is Heat Stress?

Heat stress occurs when cattle are unable to dissipate heat. Unfortunately cattle are genetically unable to dissipate their heat load efficiently as they have a poor sweating mechanism and rely wholly on respiration to cool themselves down in excessive heat. Heat stress not only affects cattle in hot weather, but also animals that live in poorly ventilated housing, so it is important to ensure that you invest in quality dairy housing.

Symptoms of Heat Stress:

It is important to note that both dairy and beef cattle can suffer from heat stress.

  • Not leaving to eat or drink
  • Cows constantly seeking shade
  • Higher water intake
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Feeding problems
  • Standing rather than lying down
  • Reproduction issues
  • Increased body temperature
  • An increase in saliva production
  • Decrease in milk production
  • Constant open-mouth panting

If you notice any of these symptoms in your herd, you must react immediately and take action to prevent further problems.

How to Prevent Heat Stress

Heat stress is preventable if you ensure that you take care of the 3 following factors:


It is important to provide plenty of shade so that your cattle have areas to cool down. Unfortunately not every farm has natural shaded areas such as trees or hedges etc; this is where you need to provide artificial shelters to protect your herd from the heat of the sun. We recommend that you keep any feeding areas covered in a shaded area, as cows spend a lot of their day eating.


It is incredibly important to keep your cows well hydrated. During periods of excessively hot weather it is recommended that you ensure that water is more accessible to your herd. You must make sure that water is kept cool and does not become stagnant; to prevent this, clean water troughs each day.


In order to prevent heat stress you must ensure that your beef housing is well ventilated and spacious, so that cows do not accumulate too much heat that they cannot disperse. Remember; cattle accumulate heat throughout the day and disperse it at night. If there is no ventilation or airflow the heat is unable to dissipate.

Don’t let your cattle be victims of heat stress, and ensure that you have the correct form of housing for your livestock. If you notice any behavioural changes in any of your cows ensure that you seek the consultation of a vet.

RE Buildings provide a wide range of agricultural buildings for the farming industry. If you would like more information in regards to our buildings and any other products, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our professional team who will be more than happy to help! Please call now on 01524 792247 or send an email to

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