09 July 2012

Heat is more than just uncomfortable

19 Tamuz 5772

Heat is mean too: Animals, plants feel the impact of higher-than-normal temperatures

If you think it’s tough dragging your body around in 100-degree heat, imagine what happens to a 1,500-pound cow.

“This type of weather is hard on plants and animals as well as humans,” said Danny Howard, Clemson Extension agent in Greenville County. “Heat stress takes a serious toll on livestock, especially in combination with high humidity.

“Hot weather can reduce feed intake, milk production, weight gain and even result in livestock death,” Howard said. “A rise in temperature from 70 to 95 degrees can double or triple water requirements. All animals need a good supply of fresh water to help survive the heat wave.”

A hot spell can cause financial problems for farmers even if their cattle have no physical problems, he said.

“High temperatures cause grazing animals to seek shade in the hottest part of the day. Cattle will stop grazing,” Howard said. “If they stop grazing, they do not put on body weight. That translates into a yield reduction to the farmer in lost pounds of beef. “

Livestock farmers at least can provide water, ventilation and shade for cattle, hogs and poultry. But there’s no shade for a field crop.

“Plants in general suffer when they face a constant temperature in the high 90s,” Howard said. “Pollination needed to produce a high yield is decreased when the temperatures rise above 100 degrees. Also, sun scald on plant tissue is another concern with the extreme temperatures.”

Blazing sun and soaring daytime temperatures aren’t the only concern, either.

“When the nighttime temperature remains in the high 70s or low 80s, the plant does not have a resting period, which in turn causes the plant to shut down,” Howard said. “We have seen this in the past with the decline of pastures grasses.”

Another sign of the (heat) times: thousands of dead fish
In lakes and rivers across parched areas of the U.S., heat and lower water levels are reducing oxygen levels -- and killing fish populations by the thousands.

At least 30 deaths blamed on heat wave

...unrelenting heat that has killed at least 30 people across half the country.

While it's taking lives, it's also taking a huge financial toll.

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