Tips for Caring for Livestock in Extreme Heat

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
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This week will bring the hottest temperatures of the summer so far to our area. It is very important we manage our livestock during such temperature extremes to avoid heat stress. Check out the tips below to help keep your livestock safe this summer.

  • Provide access to clean water at all times. Animals will drink more water under extreme heat conditions, so make sure you are taking that into account. If you have automatic waterers or float valves on tanks, check to make sure they are functioning properly. Also make sure there is easy access for all your animals. If you have a large herd, you may need to consider adding more troughs so that animals are not having to wait or fight for access to a water tank.
  • Provide shelter or shade. This can be from trees, lean-tos, a barn, or any other structure that provides shade from the sun. Animals can get sunburned like people can. Pink skin is at a higher risk of getting burned. Providing shade can help prevent sunburn. Sunscreen can be applied to pink markings on horses, but be careful to avoid the eyes.
  • Avoid any exercise or stress. If it all possible, do not work animals. The increased stress and activity can easily push animals into heat stress. If you do work you animals, try to use those cooler morning hours before the temperature starts to rise.
  • Don’t keep animals confined together. Give animals space to spread out to increase air movement.
  • Avoid hauling animals when possible. Confining animals in a trailer, especially in large groups, can be deadly in high temperatures. Again, use cooler night and morning temperatures if animals absolutely must be transported.

Animals with black fur and hide are at higher risk of heat stress. Animals that are not acclimated to the heat, such as animals that have been transported in from a cooler climate, are also at increased risk. Be sure to observe your animals frequently for signs of heat stress. Signs can vary depending on species, but look for increased pulse and respiration rates, panting, drooling, lethargy, and muscle weakness.

What to Do if My Animal is Showing Signs of Overheating? If your animals are showing signs of extreme heat stress or heat stroke, contact your vet immediately. Move animals to a cool shaded area with access to water. Overheated animals can be cooled off by hosing them down with cool water.