Heat-related illnesses are a major concern for horse owners in Arizona, particularly during the hot summer months. By gaining a better understanding of the various risk factors that are involved with heat-related illnesses, you will be better prepared to care for your horse and to take the steps necessary prevent these illnesses from occurring.
One of the key factors that will affect your horse’s susceptibility to heat-related illnesses is its level of fitness. A horse that is well-conditioned is less likely to be affected by heat than your average pasture horse.
The breed of your horse will also influence its sensitivity to heat. Certain breeds and body styles are less likely to be negatively impacted. A horse with a long, lean build who has more surface area relative to its overall mass will be able to naturally cool itself more easily than one that is stout and compact. As such, an Arabian or a Thoroughbred is likely to do better than a draft horse or even a pony.
Of course, temperatures are also a factor. Be sure to give your horse time to acclimate to the changing weather and try to avoid working your horse during the hottest times of the day. Keep in mind that humidity is also a factor, as high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating quickly. Thankfully, humidity is not usually a concern in the Arizona summer, but you should still monitor the overall heat index in order to determine if it is too hot too ride.
In addition to the many visible signs associated with heat stress in beef cattle, there are also several invisible signs and effects of heat stress. While they are not visible to the eye, wellness checks may show these signs through various forms of testing.
Some of the invisible signs of heat stress in beef cattle include:
- Indigestibility of feed
- Increased peripheral blood flow
- Increased respiratory infections
- Increased susceptibility to parasitic and non-parasitic diseases
- Loss of bicarbonates
- Loss of electrolytes
- Lower ruminal pH
- Reduced response to intercurrent diseases or pathogens
- Slowed gut and ruminal motility rates, resulting in slow passage of feed through the digestive tract
- Slowed recovery from environmental stresses
- Stress hormones in the blood
Heat stress can also affect the reproduction of beef cattle. Not only can it alter the production of the reproductive hormones that are essential for pregnancy, but it can also change the balance of developing follicles in the ovary. Embryonic development can also be affected while gene function is disturbed. Lower conception rates and lower fertility in bulls is also associated with heat stress, as are increased foetal and postnatal mortality rates.
By closely monitoring the health and the activity of your cattle, you can better ensure they are not suffering from heat stress and its negative – even possibly fatal – effects.
In this three-part series, we have been exploring ways to keep your cattle healthy during the hot spring and summer months in Arizona. In addition to proper feeding and providing shade, you can also keep your cattle cool by choosing the right time of the day to work them and by ensuring they have the proper amount of water intake.
In this second of a three-part series, we will discuss additional ways to keep your cattle cool and healthy during the hot Arizona spring and summer.
With the hot Arizona weather upon us, you may be looking for ways to ensure your cattle remain cool and healthy. In this three-part series, we will take a closer look at how to keep your cowherd safe and comfortable in the spring and summer heat.