Keeping animals cool and comfortable during the hot summer months is very important. Animals are susceptible to overheating just like humans, the difference is we can go inside into the air conditioning, and they cannot. Below are some helpful tips to keep your livestock cool during these warm months.
Young animals, dark colored animals and animals that have been sick or have a history of respiratory disease are at high risk of heat stress. Signs of heat stress you should be familiar with include panting, increased respiration rate, increased water intake, loss of appetite, lethargy, or listless, increased salivation. Each animal shows heat stress differently so knowing when animals are “off” is important.
Offering plenty of clean fresh water for your animals is vital for their health. During hot weather water requirements can double when temperatures increase. Water quality affects water intake so always make sure water is clean and fresh. When animals are not drinking enough water their dry matter intake declines which causes a decline in milk production, reduced feed intake and a decline in performance. Animals do not like change so when moving watering troughs make sure that is done before a heat wave, so animals know where water is.
Shelter for animals during times of extreme heat is very important. The best shelter is one that has shade and has good air flow. Good air flow will help keep animals’ cooler and lowers the ammonia smell when animals are standing in the shelter all day. The size of the shelter should depend on the group size of the animals using it. There should be enough room so each animal can lie down. When animals can lie down that can also help them stay cool. When animals do not have enough room in shelters, they can smother each other which causes them to not be able to cool down and injuries to occur.
Handling and transporting animals on hot days should only be done when it is necessary. If it must be done, consider doing it in the early morning or late afternoon after it has cooled down some. There has been research shown that moving and handling animals on hot days can increase their body temperature thus increasing the changes of heat stress to occur. If you must transport animals trailer capacities should be reduced 85% to increase air flow between animals. If you must stop, park the trailer in the shade and at right angles to increase the air circulation throughout the trailer.
If you believe your animal is showing signs of heat stress, always contact your veterinarian for advice, but immediate actions can be taken to help the animal. Moving them to shade or bringing shade to them. Offering plenty of cold water but only offering in small amounts often. Increase the air movement around them by fans.
Shelby Tedrow is an Agriculture & Natural Resources Program Assistant for OSU Extension. She can be reached at email@example.com or 330-264-8722
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