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07/11/14 Temperature Concerns for Livestock

Posted by cahnrs.webteam | July 11, 2014

We have already seen numerous days of hot weather, with weather report indicates that we should see extremely hot temperatures over the next week.  These extremely hot temperatures not only impact your animal’s comfort and welling-being, but they can also greatly impact the animal’s growth and feed intake.  Proper management of animals during this heat is critical to prevent or minimize decreased feed intake and weight gain.  It is very difficult to realize weight gain in extreme hot weather, and if individuals are working their animals, one should expect weight loss.  So if you are trying to get your animals to gain weight, you are going to need to pay extra attention to keeping them comfortable and decreasing work/practice to minimize weight loss.

Youth, parents, and leaders should pay close attention to management practices and the over-all well-being of their animals at temperatures above 75 degrees.  However, the Thermal Danger Zone for animals and humans are temperatures above 100 degrees.  Remember, animals kept outside without adequate shade are going to be in the Danger Zone when the thermometer on the porch reads 80-85 degrees.—Make sure your animals have adequate shade and provide cooling and ventilations systems when necessary to help keep the animals comfortable.  Fans, air inlets, and water misting or drip systems can be used to help cool animals and their surroundings.  Make sure that pigs (especially white pigs) can either cover with mud or get in the shade to prevent sunburn.  If you are having your lamb sheared during these hot days, you will also want to make sure you lock them in the barn for a day or two to prevent sunburn.  Also, remember that even though you removed the wool, the lambs may actually feel hotter because they do not have the wool to act as insulation from the heat of the sun.  Try to minimize working/handling/feeding animals during the heat.  Feed early in the mornings and at night after it has started to cool.  And most importantly, make sure animals have access to an adequate supply of clean, cool water continuously.  Pay extra attention to the temperature of water from hoses and where nipple valves are placed (if in the sun, both water and equipment will be too hot to encourage water intake by animals).

In addition, transportation of animals in this heat is very difficult on them; not only because of the heat, but often trailers are hotter than the outside temperature and limited airflow in trailers. If it is not necessary to transport your animal, it is best not to transport them during these hot temperatures.  Don’t stop when hauling in these temperatures, unload animals immediately upon arrival.

Minimizing excess handling is also another way to minimize stress during these temperatures.  Working animals for a short 5-10 minute period in early morning or late evening is adequate to achieve training necessary.  Hauling and practicing in groups is not advisable during these extreme hot temperatures.  I know many of you want to work with and practice with your animals in preparation for the fair.  I commend you for your work.  However, remember your animals cannot go and cool down in air conditions (vehicle or house).  Once an animal gets excited it can take 20-30 minutes for the heart rate to return to normal.

Sarah M. Smith
Extension Regional Specialist–Animal Sciences
WSU Grant-Adams Extension
PO Box 37, Courthouse
Ephrata, WA 98823
Phone: (509) 754-2011, Ext. 413
(800) 572-0119 (toll free in Washington)
Fax: (509)754-0163
“World Class. Face to Face.”