Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



Int J Biometeorol (2010) 54:629–635

DOI 10.1007/s00484-009-0229-0


U.S. government work


Angus crossbred yearling steers (n=168) were used to evaluate effects on performance and tympanic temperature (TT) of feeding additional potassium and sodium to steers exposed to excessive heat load (maximum daily ambient temperature exceeded 32°C for three consecutive days) during seasonal summer conditions. Steers were assigned one of four treatments: (1) control; (2) potassium supplemented (diet containing 2.10% KHCO3); (3) sodium supplemented (diet containing 1.10% NaCl); or (4) potassium and sodium supplemented (diet containing 2.10% KHCO3 and 1.10% NaCl). Overall, additional KHCO3 at the 2% level or NaCl at the 1% level did not improve performance or heat stress tolerance with these diet formulations. However, the addition of KHCO3 did enhance water intake. Independent of treatment effects, TT of cattle displaying high, moderate, or low levels of stress suggest that cattle that do not adequately cool down at night are prone to achieving greater body temperatures during a subsequent hot day. Cattle that are prone to get hot but can cool at night can keep average tympanic temperatures at or near those of cattle that tend to consistently maintain lower peak and mean body temperatures. In addition, during cooler and moderately hot periods, cattle change TT in a stair-step or incremental pattern, while under hot conditions, average TT of group-fed cattle moves in conjunction with ambient conditions, indicating that thermoregulatory mechanisms are at or near maximum physiological capacity.