Chill out! Keeping Livestock Cool on Hot Summer Days
It’s the official start to summer today and temperatures are quickly climbing to 97° here at our corporate offices in Connecticut. The farmers in the office are buzzing about keeping their animals cool during what looks to be a heat wave headed our way. Too much heat takes a toll on farm animals, just like with people, and can affect their health, fertility, and reproduction. In more serious cases heat stress can lead to disease, decreased growth and increased mortality rates.
Kathy B., our guest dairy blogger extraordinaire, is keeping an eye out for warning signs of heat stress in her dairy herd. She pays close attention to any of her girls panting, open mouth breathing or eating less. Even a low level of heat stress in dairy cows can lead to decreased milk production.
Kathy takes preventative measures to keep her cows cool by providing shade, using circulation fans and sprinkler systems. Her cows are free to pasture as they please, but will probably take cover in the three-sided shed to get out of the sun today. For large confinement dairy operations, she recommends an exhaust fan system to maintain healthy air flow. To further ventilate, she suggests roll-up sides or open ends for barns. Of course, a ClearSpan Fabric Structure is her dream solution (she’ll own her own farm someday!). The fabric keeps indoor temperatures 10-15° cooler than outside and, with options such as fans, vents, roll-up sides and sprinklers systems, it’s an ideal barn solution for dairy cattle.
Our resident Flock Star, Joe N., is keeping his 15 layers cool with some shade cloth, cold water and a 10’ x 20’ commercial canopy. If his ladies get too hot, they could stop laying and then what will he have for breakfast (and who will bring fresh eggs in for the office?!)? Any sign of panting or lifting their wings away from their bodies means the chickens need to cool off pronto! That’s when they get ice cubes in the water troughs which are, of course, located in the shade. How about making some refreshing mint pops to keep the flock cool, Joe? Though Joe only has a few chickens, he knows a thing or two about large poultry operations; he’s worked at FarmTek for 13 years after all. For large operations, evaporative cooling systems are the popular choice as it provides a constant cooling effect for the birds.
Our summer intern, Rebecca W., has had a couple hogs in her day and knows the warning signs of heat stress. Hogs that are breathing heavy or panting are too hot. Hot hogs can have many issues such as decreased feed intake, respiratory problems and reproductive infertility. To prevent weight loss as appetites decrease in warmer weather, she suggests farmers switch to a more nutrient dense feed to ensure that hogs get enough nutrients even though they are eating less. It is also very important that farmers check their watering systems to ensure that all hogs have access to plenty of clean fresh water at all times. Replace any defective waterers and consider adding additional watering stations to provide better access to water. Farmers can also install fans in the barn to help move air through the barn and over the hogs to help keep them cool.
In addition to fans, farmers can also install a sprinkler system in their barns. The sprinklers deliver a fine mist of water that, when used in combination with tunnel ventilation and direct fans, works wonders to help keep hogs cool. The sprinklers also double as a wash down system.
There are many more types of livestock that need to keep cool today, and all summer, but we don’t have any farmers in the Connecticut office raising goats, sheep or llamas. Do any of our readers have any tips for keeping these types of animals cool?