U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



Published in Livestock Science 105 (2006) 19– 26.


Heat stress in cattle causes decreases in feed intake and feed efficiency; in extreme cases, it can cause death. These losses amount to millions of dollars each year. A study was designed to determine severity of heat stress among four breeds of cattle. Throughout two summers, 256 feedlot heifers of four different breeds were observed. Respiration rates, panting scores, and surface temperatures were taken twice each day on 10 animals/breed for several weeks during the summers of 2002 and 2003. Twenty-four-hour behavior measurements were recorded for four heat-stress and four thermoneutral days. Results showed during the afternoon, Angus cattle (black) had the highest respiration rates, panting scores, and surface temperatures, followed by the MARC III (dark red), Gelbvieh (tan), and Charolais (white). Behavior data showed that heat stress increased drinking and standing behavior, and decreased eating, lying, and agonistic behaviors, and that dark-hided cattle adjusted their behavior more than light-hided cattle. Overall, it was found that breed of cattle with dark-hides were more affected by temperature changes and at peak temperatures than breeds of cattle with light-hides.