The Kansas Mesonet is launching a new tool: cattle comfort index. The harsh conditions this winter resulted in negative impacts on cattle, particularly calves. One symptom of the problems was the large number of requests for Mesonet data to document losses under the Livestock Indemnity Program. A comprehensive tool on the weather impacts should prove useful for future events. Negative impacts are not limited to winter conditions. This tool also helps assess the response to excessive heat and humidity.
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 new tool from either the main Mesonet page by selecting from the drop down menu, Agriculture, then Comfort Index (Figure 1); or directly from this link: http://mesonet.k-state.edu/agriculture/animal/
Figure 1. Screenshot of the menu path to the new Comfort Index page on the Kansas Mesonet.
Building on the Comprehensive Comfort Index, produced at University of Nebraska, the tool illustrates the impact of both extremes of hot and cold. The index is unique in that it includes, in addition to air temperature and relative humidity, effects of wind speed and solar radiation. Development and validation of the index used data from beef and dairy cattle. The map indicates where current conditions fit on the scale. On the about page, there is a description of the values on the scale and their potential impact (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Cattle comfort ranges. Graphic from Kansas Mesonet.
Understanding the Webpage
The “About” section contains information about the comfort index. There is also a link to the publications used to produce page. For more information on navigating this resource, users can select a page tour from the main soil moisture page located at the top of the featured map.
Figure 3. Cattle on a pasture near the Sedan Mesonet station. Photo by Chip Redmond, K-State Research and Extension.