It might sound trite, but by this time of year the heat is on for most regions in the U.S., and our farm animals feel it, too. Dehydration, heat stress and heatstroke are challenges that many farmers face as temperatures increase. Here are some tips to keep your animals cool during summer heat.
1. Provide Shade
This might seem obvious, but think how many pastures are just fields of grass with not a single tree in sight. Run-in sheds, lean-tos, and shade trees offer quite a bit of relief from the summer glare for grazing animals. Because building permanent structures take time, consider building a portable shade shelter.
2. Run Fans
If your animals are in the barn for any length of time during the summer months, fans are a must. They not only provide a cooling breeze but also help prevent biting insects such as mosquitoes and flies from landing and having a meal.
3. Have Clean Water Sources
Water troughs with stagnant water in the heat are practically nonpotable for several different reasons, most importantly algae and bacterial growth. Need a convenient method to keep large troughs clean? Consider putting in a few fish. Seriously.
4. Give a Clean Shave
For those fiber-producing species (sheep, llamas and alpacas, I’m looking at you), shearing is a must before the summer heats up too much. If, for show or production reasons, you need to keep your animals in full fleece, they require extra care when it comes to shade, fans and a low-stress environment when dealing with the heat.
5. Fill Up Pools
Not every species grabs the bikinis and takes a deep dive into a kiddie pool, but camelids will happily settle into a shallow temporary pool and seem to genuinely enjoy themselves. All they’re missing is margaritas.
6. Apply Sunblock
This is primarily for those horses with pink noses (such as grays and those with a wide blaze or bald face). Any child-safe zinc oxide is fine to apply to protect against those ultraviolet rays.
7. Distribute Salt Blocks
No matter what livestock species you have, providing animals daily access to a salt block is a necessity. The beauty of a salt block? Animals innately know when and how much to lick. This helps restore their electrolyte balance in the heat. Think of it as the four-legged version of Gatorade.
8. Reduce Stress
Avoid hard work and stress during the hottest days. Depending on your species, this might mean avoiding hauling and transport, stressful veterinary work such as vaccinations, castrations, hoof care, breeding or weaning. When it’s hot, let everyone just relax—including yourself.
9. Control Insects
This is a bit of a corollary to the last tip. Insect strike causes stress, aggravation, stomping and excessive movement, which, in extreme heat, can be detrimental to an animal’s health and well-being. Bug spray, fans, proper manure management and reduction or outright elimination of standing water all go a long way to reducing insect burdens on the farm.