Keeping livestock comfortable in the summer
There’s no doubt about it, it has been hot here in the Ozarks this summer.
While it’s easy to get caught up in your own sweaty misery, it’s vitally important to remember that livestock need help cooling down too. Improper or lack of livestock comfort practices can result in dehydration, heat stress and even death for your valuable animals.
Here’s tips from experts to help livestock beat the heat:
Access to plenty of water is absolutely essential at any time of year, but in the summer, animals tend to drink more, so be prepared to fill troughs more frequently and possibly even add additional troughs if this is how your animals get water.
If possible, place troughs in the shade – animals tend to gather at the “water cooler,” so if it is shady, they will be more comfortable. Water sources placed in direct sunlight will quickly get hot and stagnant if the water is not changed or aerated in some way. If water sources must be in direct sunlight, change the water out regularly.
“Stock tanks should be refilled a minimum of twice a week,” Dr. Elisabeth Giedt of the University of Oklahoma Extension said. “Stock tanks that are refilled without cleaning often grow ‘slime’ around the inside of the tank and may also provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
If animals have access to water via a pond, consider purchasing a pond aerator to help prevent the water from stagnating, Giedt added. Even with hot temperatures and cool shaded water sources, sometimes animals need some extra encouragement to stay hydrated.
Angelica Kostik, of Ark of Angels Dairy Goats in Greenwood, Mo, adds beet pulp to water troughs to animals help them stay hydrated.
“They drink gallons of water like that every day and it’s great because the beet pulp floats for awhile and they try to eat it off the top,” she said.
Livestock must have adequate shade to help them cope with hot summertime temperatures, stressed Dr. Heidi Ward, assistant professor and veterinarian with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
“It is all about providing shade structures,” she said. “Producers should make sure cattle have access to shade trees or build simple shade structures that have plenty of ventilation. Keeping water sources close to the shade structures will also help the cattle stay comfortable.”
Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, noted that beef cattle will perform better in the summer when good shade is provided.
“We did shade trials and there are animal differences with some being able to cope with the heat better than others. We always found that shade availability enhanced gains,” he said.
Cole also noted that one study showed shade made a significant difference in the pregnancy retention of beef cows.
While water and shade are the most basic forms of animal comfort that producers can provide, there are certainly other ways to help keep livestock temperatures down.
Many poultry producers install fans in their barns to keep the air circulating and their birds cool. Wallows for pigs can be made by simply letting the hose run and creating some mud in a shady area.