Condition cattle to beat heat

Most people can make money in the cattle business when times are good and rain is frequent, but how do they manage in extremely hot and dry conditions so typical to West Texas summers?

Cecil Kalina raises predominately black cattle; after all, that’s what the marketplace wants these days. Nevertheless, Texas’ summertime heat and merciless sunshine can be hard on cattle, especially black animals. Kalina knows keeping cattle in condition starts with ample water.

Key Points

Water is the foundation of Cecil Kalina’s cattle operation.

A good mix of pasture grasses and minerals help.

Cows need good maintenance to wean healthy calves.


Louisiana State University research has shown adult, nonlactating cattle need 10 to 15 gallons of water per head each day. For bulls or lactating cows, water needs increase to 20 to 25 gallons per animal daily.

Even cattle under 500 pounds — like the Kalina young animals and show calves — each need 5 to 10 gallons of water per day.

Texas A&M University says a good rule is 2 gallons of water per 100 pounds of body weight, which means a 1,000-pound lactating cow needs about 20 gallons of water per day.

Kalina cattle operations are spread over Runnels, Tom Green and Concho counties in Texas — from Miles to south of Christoval near Eldorado. That can be hot, dry, rugged country, especially in summer.

Kalina has a well at home, plus stock tanks near Christoval that catch runoff water. Another place is just below O.H. Ivie Reservoir. Additional rangeland he leases at Silver, Texas, has both stock tanks and well water.

“Having water is everything,” Kalina says. “That’s the starting place with cattle — no water, no cattle.”

He is absolutely convinced it will not break even — even if cattle prices are strong — to haul water to cattle.

Pastures and nutrition

Each place mentioned has some summer grazing.

The pastures include a mix of native and improved grasses. Among improved grasses, Kalina likes coastal bermudagrass and Bdahl grass for his region.

Kalina also keeps salt blocks out for cattle — very important in summer — as well as Hudson mineral tubs, not only for summer, but year-round. He puts these supplements out free choice for the livestock, but it’s in the hot spring and summer months that the cattle really hit salt blocks and mineral tubs hard.

In this part of Texas certainly not touted for trees, Kalina feels fortunate that all the places he runs cattle have good shade.

He wants a well-conditioned cow to wean at least a 500-pound calf. They may intentionally wean show calves a dab early at slightly lighter weights because calves are easier to halter break and train for shows at that time.

Meanwhile, cotton and wheat work in rotation (when it rains), and Kalina with brothers, Curtis and Harvey, do have some pivot, drip and row irrigation at several cotton farms.

Kalina says sorghum remains hard to keep clean of weeds until new herbicides come along. But since he sometimes buys cattle to go to a feedyard, the sorghum can be useful there.

It’s not unusual for Kalina to plant dryland cotton as late as June 10-15. All tractors are equipped with GPS satellite guidance, which pinpoints fertilizer placement when covering a lot of ground quickly, he says.

Somehow, Kalina found “time” to serve three terms on the Runnels County Farm Service Agency county committee.

To Kalina — from cattle to cotton — saved time is dollars.

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CHECK THEM OUT: Cecil Kalina (left) and brother Curtis check cows they have moved onto this pasture at Miles, Texas. The Kalina brothers favor predominately back cattle.

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NUTRITION EMPHASIZED: Cecil Kalina will feed bags of supplement as needed to keep both the commercial cows, calves and show calves in top-notch condition.

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DAD’S HELPERS: Cecil Kalina gets steadfast support from the youngest of his three daughters, Allie, 7, and family farm dog “Edgar.”

This article published in the June, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.