Throughout the world, livestock represents the main food supply. Recently, livestock occupies more and more tropical and subtropical areas, which generates an enormous challenge for farmers, since these areas are increasingly affected by global warming. In this sense, one of the strategies to counteract the negative impact that heat stress can have on animals is to offer them diets rich in minerals, such as potassium and zinc.
At least, this is the conclusion drawn by a specialist from the University of Iowa, in the US, Lance Baumgard, during a postgraduate study he conducted at the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires.
The effects of global warming produce “sharply decreases in growth rates so that all the parameters of economic importance for the producer decrease and, in addition, animals suffer discomfort and may even die,” said Baumgard.
To reduce the effects of heat on animals, the key is to reduce the caloric stress during the summer, either through technology (cooling devices or devices to produce more shaded areas for the animals to evade the heat) or the diet.
More Potassium and Zinc are necessary to combat heat stress
In particular, Baumgard considered that the management of diet to reduce the effects of heat stress is particularly important in countries affected by drought and global warming.
The researcher recalled that animals change their behavior to tolerate heat stress and that, at the same time, they experience changes in their metabolism. When the environmental temperature is too high, the cattle begin to perspire, which is their natural body’s mechanism to stay cool. But excessive perspiration produces sensible losses of potassium, an element that allows all the living beings to regulate water losses.
Thus, if the heat stress continues, the animals become dehydrated and suffer various organic problems. Therefore, diets rich in potassium allow animals to breathe normally and stay cool in periods of high temperatures.
Regarding Zinc, it is essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system of the animals. Heat stress during summer makes the intestinal tract more permeable to toxic substances and inflammations and other associated disorders can occur. Adding Zing to the livestock animals diet could successfully combat the negative effects of global warming when combined with Potassium.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.