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 a heat-stress event.
In some cattle, 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. Cattle housed in confined feedlot pens are especially vulnerable to heat-stress events, notes Tami Brown-Brandl, an ARS agricultural engineer at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska.
In addition to high temperatures, weather-related factors like humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation can contribute to heat stress, adds Brown-Brandl.
Until the early 1990s, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued livestock safety warnings that helped feedlot producers preempt losses or diminished productivity resulting from heat-stress events. Starting in the mid-2000s, USMARC researchers filled the void with a Web page, which is still available today, offering similar forecasts.
The app was beta-tested last year and is based on several years of field research conducted by Brown-Brandl, fellow ag engineer Roger Eigenberg and others at USMARC—including Randy Bradley. Bradley, an information technology specialist, is responsible for a color-coded heat-index map of the entire continental United States.