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South Dakota Ag News Headlines
Livestock Stress Tool
South Dakota Ag Connection - 02/21/2024

Weather conditions in the Northern Plains can present more than a few challenges for livestock producers. From below zero or blizzard conditions during winter or even spring, to heat waves in the summer months, farmers and ranchers need to be prepared for rapidly changing conditions to provide the best care for their livestock and minimize their risks of losses.

Having better information usually leads to better decision making. Unfortunately, much of the information on a daily weather forecast is not specifically tailored for the unique factors important to livestock producers, or such information is not readily available to farmers and ranchers. In a survey of feedlot operators in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska, only about 26% used early warning alert tools as a trigger to proactively manage heat stress risks to cattle. The figure is probably similar for cold stress.

To help bridge those gaps and provide livestock producers with more tools to drive decision making, SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Mesonet have teamed up to provide the Livestock Stress Tool. This tool uses data collected from 29 Mesonet sites across South Dakota to provide different measures of livestock environmental stress: Wind Chill Index (WCI)/Heat Index (HI), Temperature Humidity Index (THI), and Comprehensive Climate Index (CCI).

What Information Does the Livestock Stress Tool Provide?

The Comprehensive Climate Index is the newest measure of livestock stress and incorporates the most factors to describe the effects of changing weather conditions on livestock. It was developed by Dr. Terry Mader, retired University of Nebraska researcher who is widely recognized as one of the leading experts in the effects of environmental stress in livestock. The CCI uses temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation to derive one value describing environmental stress on livestock under both cold and hot conditions. Dr. Mader also developed risk categories for both heat and cold stress using these values. Cold stress conditions are divided further into two classes, one for adult or well-acclimated livestock and the other for newborns or animals not acclimated to cold conditions.





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