Those herding cattle on the endless miles of grazing land in Montana and the rest of the West may soon be holding their horses’ reins in one hand and their smartphones in the other. Only a few of the cow herders and feedlot wranglers might be playing Pokemon, but the rest could be eyeballing a new app that can forecast conditions triggering heat stress in cattle.
In some livestock, distress and discomfort from prolonged exposure to extreme heat cause diminished appetite, reduced growth or weight gain, greater susceptibility to disease and, in some cases, even death, reported Jan Suszkiw of the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA.
Until the early 1990s, the National Weather Service issued livestock safety warnings – often broadcast on local radio stations – that helped cattle marketers reduce losses or diminished productivity resulting from heat-stress events. In 2005, Nebraska’s Meat Animal Research Center created a website with similar information. Now, thanks to scientists and ag engineers at the government’s Nebraska center, a color-coded,heat-index map of the entire continental United States is available on both Apple and Android phones.
The app issues forecasts one to seven days in advance of extreme heat conditions, along with recommended actions that can protect animals before and during periods of high heat, said Suszkiw.
The research service said that in addition to feedlot producers, animal caretakers and extension personnel, the Heat Stress app may also prove useful to professors, students and others with an interest in livestock welfare.