The winter of 2020-2021 has been mild thus far but much colder conditions are in the forecast. These much colder conditions will likely result in negative impacts on cattle, particularly calves. A cattle comfort tool on the Kansas Mesonet can be found at https://mesonet.ksu.edu/agriculture/animal. This tool can help identify how harsh conditions are and aid in decision management.
Actual animal response to temperature stress will be dependent on a number of factors not accounted for in the index. Those include, but are not limited to: age, hair coat (winter vs summer; wet vs dry), health, body condition, micro-environment, and acclimatization.
Users can access this tool from either the main Mesonet page at the link above or by selecting from the drop down menu, Agriculture, and then Comfort Index (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Screenshot of the menu path to the Comfort Index page on the Kansas Mesonet.
Understanding the Comfort Index
Building on the Comprehensive Comfort Index, produced at University of Nebraska, this tool illustrates the impact of both extremes of hot and cold. The index includes: air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation. Development and validation of the index used data from both beef and dairy cattle and can have applications on all fur covered animals. The map indicates where current conditions fit on the scale.
Under the "Resources" tab, there are descriptions of the scale and their potential impact (Figure 2). There is also a link to the publication used to produce the page. For more information on navigating this resource, users can select a "Page Tour" option located at the top (or left of on a big screen) of the featured map.
Figure 2. Cattle comfort ranges. Graphic from Kansas Mesonet.
A particularly useful resource is the chart feature. This allows you to monitor how conditions have fluctuated over the past week (Figure 3). Since stress impacts can be cumulative, having this feature allows producers to evaluate management requirements.
Figure 3. Animal Comfort index history at Colby Mesonet station. Graphic from Kansas Mesonet.
Christopher “Chip” Redmond, Kansas Mesonet Manager
Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library