Cattle in a field near Audubon.

Cattle in a field near Audubon.

The extended heat wave that’s hit the Midwest this week is taking its toll on livestock, especially cattle.

Nebraska officials report several hundred deaths in feedlots across that state, but so far, Iowa producers have been spared.

Iowa State University Beef Center Veterinarian Grant Dewell says it’s not the number of animals that causes problems, it’s a lack of shade.

“They’re not very efficient at dealing with heat,” Dewell says. “If it gets above 80 degrees, cattle are having to work to cool themselves off…so when it’s hot for us, it’s really hot for a cow.”

Two years ago, during a similar period of heat and humidity, Iowa cattle producers lost more than 4,000 cattle.

Dewell says he has no reports of cattle dying this week in Iowa, but he admits it may be a battle to keep it that way.

“We’ve had producers put in shading facilities like hoop buildings that do a lot for manure management, but they’re also doing a lot for cattle comfort,” Dewell says. Many beef facilities are also equipped with water sprinklers and fans.

Dewell says cattle will likely lose a tremendous amount of weight in this heat because they eat only small portions or not at all. In 2011, beef producers in five states reported nearly 20,000 cattle deaths due to extreme heat.