As our temperatures start to rise with sunny days in our forecast, keeping cool is not only important for ourselves, but our livestock as well.
High temperatures, sun exposure and poor water quality can cause an immense amount of stress on animals and even be fatal. Some animals are more susceptible to heat stressors than others. Sheep and goats tend to tolerate heat slightly better than pigs, cattle llamas and alpacas.
Water is the most critical nutrients to animals and a huge factor in animal performance. Animals in different stages of life (growth, gestation, lactation) can require more water, especially when the temperatures rise.
One of the biggest ways to avoid heat stress is to provide continuous access to fresh, clean and cool water. Water should be replaced often and water tanks and storage should be cleaned regularly. Animals should not be drinking from water that is not changed and/or from tanks with algae buildup.
Livestock consume gallons of water per head per day. On average, growing cattle and yearling horses consume around 10 gallons per head per day. Sheep, goats and swine vary between 1-6 gallons per day. Pregnant or lactating animals require more water per day as well as larger animals.
Animals being fed high protein diets or diets high in salt, especially show animals, will have increased water needs as well to help reduce urine concentration. Water loss through sweating and evaporation can sometimes be over what is lost in the urine on hot days especially as activity increases.
If moving livestock or working with show animals, try to choose the coolest time of day and be sure animals are getting a drink.
Other factors can also influence water loss outside of temperature, activity and production stage. Access to shade is important in extreme heat, so facilities should allow for areas where animals can escape the sun and have great ventilation. Simple shade structures with air flow or fans should be available for animals to congregate under. Mature trees are also a great resource.
Pigs especially need a shade source as they cannot sweat and can sunburn easily, Pigs should have access to shade all day or be in completely shaded pens. As for sheep, be sure to leave some wool coverage throughout the summer by rough sheering. Their wool acts as protection from sunburn and temperature regulation, although they do not need a full wool coat as they would in winter.
When hauling livestock, ice is your and your animal’s friend! Keeping chunks of ice with your livestock can help from overheating. Be sure to have the best ventilation in the trailer as possible.
Avoid stopping for long periods of time and be sure your animals have access to water. Ice can also be a resource when there is extreme heat present at home as well.
Chickens especially love ice cubes with mealworms or plants frozen in them. Electrolytes can also help with animals staying hydrated. Some electrolytes have flavors, which can encourage your animal to drink water if the water source has changed due to travel.
Animals, especially for show, like to go off water if the source has changed as water tastes different from different areas.
For more information on keeping livestock cool and water requirements you can visit the following publications:
- NMSU San Juan County CES, “How to Keep Your Show Animals Cool When Summer is Heating Up.”
- Michigan State University publication titled “Avoid heat stress in your sheep and goats.”
- North Dakota State University publication titled, “Livestock Water Requirements.”
- University of Nebraska publication titled, “Water Requirements for Beef Cattle.”
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