Growing up in the Midwest meant experiencing some pretty cold winters and hot summers. Raising livestock in the Midwest meant quickly learning how to ensure my animals were safe and comfortable no matter the temperature. I’m not a big fan of super hot weather and neither are livestock. Luckily, farmers and ranchers are dedicated to the health and well-being of their animals. So when the weather gets hot and humid, they take many steps to ensure their livestock are happy and healthy! Here are four ways that farmers help animals keep cool during the summer:
1. Water, Water, Water!
I’ll be honest; I do a pretty bad job of drinking the recommended water intake of half a gallon a day. I prefer an iced coffee or the occasional soda. But I know that in order to be productive and healthy I need water. Just like humans, animals need plenty of water to stay hydrated during hot summer days. Farmers provide access to water by having water troughs in fields and barns, using automated water systems and allowing animals to access natural water streams in fields. The amount of water an animal needs a day depends on species and size. Farmers work hand-in-hand with their veterinarians to ensure their animals are receiving enough hydration!
2. Good Nutrition
I’m my happiest after I’ve eaten a good, healthy meal and livestock are no different. During the hot summer months, animals tend to eat less so farmers pay close attention to how much they feed and what type of feed they use. Farmers will feed their animals earlier in the morning and later in the day (when it’s cooler) because the animals will be more likely to eat. When animals sweat, they lose key nutrients such as potassium or sodium. Farmers provide their animals with mineral and salt supplements to replenish their nutrient levels. Just like people, happy animals have good nutrition!
3. Shade and Shelter
Whenever I go to an event or a new place in the summer, the first thing I do is locate the shade areas. I know that if I stay in direct sunlight too long I’ll wake up the next day looking like a ripe tomato, no matter how much SPF50 I lather on. Whether it’s access to shade trees or a barn, farmers also make sure their animals can escape from the hot summer sun when needed. Some farmers use misters and water pools to cool down animals – yes, even livestock get to have pool parties! Like humans, animals can internally regulate their body heat. For example, when animals pant they are self-regulating their body heat through water evaporation. Animals will also sweat or shed some hair in order to cool down in the summer heat. Of course, farmers will also use fans inside barns to keep airflow going.
4. Low Stress = Good Health
There’s nothing worse than stressing over your mile-long to-do list while it’s sweltering hot outside. Heat and stress don’t combine well! That’s why farmers work hard to ensure that animals experience low stress during the summer months. If a farmer needs to move or transport an animal during the summer they aim to do that in the early hours of the day, when it’s the coolest outside. Heat stress can lead to decreased growth rate and fertility. That’s why farmers also work closely with their veterinarians to ensure their animals don’t experience heat stress during the summer. The healthiest animals are also the calmest!
If you want to learn more about keeping animals safe and healthy during summer months, check out these great resources:
Water Intake Charts: omafra.gov.on.ca
Livestock and Poultry Care: animalagalliance.org
Dairy Cattle Care: dairygood.org
Pig Care: porkcares.org
Chicken Care: chickencheck.in
Hen Care: unitedegg.org