The harsh conditions in Kansas this past winter have prompted one of the state’s leading weather agencies to develop a tool that will help cattle producers in the future.
Officials with the Kansas Mesonet, a Kansas State University-based network of weather monitoring stations across the state, has announced the release of the Cattle Comfort Index, a tool that they say will help cattle producers better monitor the needs of their herds during normal and extreme weather conditions.
The tool is available at mesonet.k-state.edu/
“We’ve already had a lot of negative impacts on the cattle industry because of the cold temperatures this winter,” said Mary Knapp, the assistant state climatologist with Kansas Mesonet. “This tool will also look at extreme high temperatures.”
The Cattle Comfort Index compiles such climatological factors as weather, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and more to help producers determine the level of stress their animals may be experiencing at any given time.
“The index is driven by our five-minute data that is available from Kansas Mesonet,” Knapp said. “It will be calculated real-time and updated on a regular basis so that producers can see how that will change during the day.”
The climate information is gathered from each of the Mesonet’s 61 reporting stations in Kansas. For each, the system reports the perceived comfort level of cattle in that area, from no stress, to mild, moderate and severe.
Knapp said, “the actual animal response to temperature stress will be dependent on a number of factors not accounted for in the index,” including age, hair coat, health, body condition, micro-environment, and acclimatization.
“The index shown may start off at a reasonable comfort level in the morning, but as you get into the afternoon when that heat starts developing and the humidity hasn’t abated, that’s when you can get some of the heaviest stress on the livestock,” she said. “A chart will show the level over time, but historical data is limited to the week, ending with the current day.”
The tool was developed from research conducted at the University of Nebraska. The Kansas Mesonet website includes a map that shows conditions across the state and how that might play into risk for cattle.