Jeff Masters Weather Blog

How Georgia farmers are protecting their cattle from extreme heat » Yale Climate Connections

When the weather is hot and humid, humans are not the only ones who suffer.

Extreme heat can take a toll on cows.

“And the result of that is that the cattle will stop eating. They will become more lethargic. They lose fertility. They stop giving milk if they’re dairy cattle,” says Pam Knox, an agricultural climatologist at the University of Georgia.

She says that average temperatures in her state have gone up by about two degrees Fahrenheit since the 1960s.

“A lot of that rise is in nighttime temperatures, not in daytime temperatures,” Knox says. “And that’s a really big issue for people and livestock … because those nighttime temperatures, usually humans and animals need to cool off at night or they really become stressed.”

And as the climate warms, the number of hot nights in the Southeast is expected to continue increasing.

Knox says some beef farmers are now experimenting with white Angus cattle — a cross between popular black Angus and more heat-tolerant breeds. These animals have a light coat that reflects sunlight.

Others are adding shade structures, cooling fans and misters so they can keep their livestock healthy and productive, even in a warmer climate.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media

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