Clipping to Keep Cattle Cool
Due to the inability of long haired or rough coated animals to dissipate heat, there are cattle that retain their hair coats (fail to shed their winter coats) in the summer and are subject to increased heat stress, said Ted Cunningham, livestock specialist for the South Central Region University of Missouri Extension.
Steven M. Jones, associate professor for the University of Arkansas’ Department of Animal Science considers three hair types in cattle: hairy, intermediate and slick. Hairy types include the typical English breeds such as Herefords and Angus. Intermediate types include Continental breeds such as Charolais and Gelbvieh. Slick types include cattle with Brahman influence.
The shoulder and buttocks areas of the body that will generate the most heat and naturally begin shedding in that region first during hotter months.
“There is a limited amount of research that has looked to clipping as a way to reduce heat stress, but the data from most of those studies indicate clipping reduces heat stress,” Cunningham said. “Based upon a pilot project I completed last summer, clipping certainly benefited those cattle from a performance standpoint.”
Considerations that producers need to keep in mind include whether or not clipping will be both practical and economic for their overall efficiency and gain. According to Jones, in most instances other than including show cattle, it is usually not.
This will depend on the type of cattle, number of cattle and the producers’ available time and labor to devote to trimming.
Jones added that the process of actually gathering and working the cattle and additional time in the heat, can increase their stress levels therefore, outweighing the benefit of reducing heat stress by hair trimming.
It is not recommend that all cattle breeds need trimming, however that it appears there are many breeds that seem to have cattle that don’t shed as well as we’d like them to. “Additionally we know that darker colored animals do not reflect as much heat as lighter colored animals and this is likely a factor as well,” Cunningham added. “Bos Indicus breeds would likely be the least likely to need hair removed as they seem to shed and tolerate heat stress better than Bos Taurus breeds.”
Cunningham also recommends this has the potential to help a number of types of cattle in a number of settings. However, warns that it may be most economical to focus on younger, growing stock, as they seem to be the most commonly afflicted.
“Any heat stress will cause energy deficiencies,” Jones said. “Providing correct nutrient and water requirements are essential during the summer.”