The summer season and its accompanying weather, can play a huge role in a farm’s overall health and productivity. Summer can often come with some extreme weather conditions, with longer days of intensely dry heat having the potential to do some serious damage to many different types of agricultural practices. One, if not the main area of farming that is most likely to be affected by such intense environmental conditions summer can bring is that of livestock.
There are a lot of different threats that summer can bring to a farm’s livestock, with a variety of ways in which to combat these; helping farmers to ensure minimal damage is done to their livelihood during this potentially intense season and although you may well have the necessary farm insurance policies, prevention is always better than cure and so preventing harm to your animals in the first place is always preferable.
Looking After Farm Animals in the Summer
With the extreme heat that summer can bring, farmers need to be extra vigilant during this season, as higher temperatures can have significantly damaging impacts for livestock’s health and well-being. Below is a list of the most common types of livestock and the way each one responds to higher temperatures and prolonged exposure to sun.
Risks to Dairy Cattle
In hotter seasons, cattle can become stressed from the heat, and have significant increases in their respiration rates in an attempt to cool down. One way to test whether their respiration rate is at a dangerous level is to measure how many breaths your cattle are taking per minute. If this is over 60 breaths, action should be taken to cool them down to safer levels.
One of the most effective methods to use when trying to cool cattle down is to provide lots of shade for them to hide under, which can prevent the issue from arising in the first place.
Providing enough covered, shady spots for cattle to shelter under can reduce the levels of solar radiation they are exposed to by 50%. Another way in which to reduce dangerously high respiration rates could be to switch up paddock rotation so that the cattle are positioned closer to the dairy. This will reduce the amount of walking cattle have to undertake in extreme heat, therefore minimising the chances of overheating.
Also, consider using sprinklers and allowing cattle to take time drinking water when travelling between the dairy and the paddock, all of which help in reducing the potential for overheating. Using sprinklers as a cool-down method has also been proven to both improve the production of milk, and reduce the levels of fly irritation, further increasing the cattle’s overall quality of life.
Protecting Horses in the Summer
Horses, like other animals on farms, can also suffer from hotter weather conditions and show signs of heat stress through higher levels of sweating and a reduction in feed intake. Ways to combat against horses suffering from heat stress include restricting the amount they are exercised, perhaps only taking them out in the cooler periods of the day such as early in the morning and late in the evening.
Electrolytes can also be incorporated into the horses’ feed to replace any of the essential salts and minerals that have been lost through excessive sweating. Hosing horses down with cool water can also be a simple and effective way of cooling down a heat stressed horse. It is worth noting that the excess water from hosing down heat stressed horses must be dried off, as water can act as an insulator for a horse’s coat in very hot and humid conditions.
Keeping Pigs Cool in Hot Weather
Pigs are one of the most likely of livestock to be affected by the sun, being very susceptible to both sunburn and heat stress. Pigs should therefore be restricted from direct sunlight and higher temperatures at all costs. If pigs are kept outdoors, providing them with an abundance of both water and mud is vital to ensure they are not damaged by the summer sun, as they use the mud, stuck to them as a form of protection from the sun’s rays. Furthermore, ensuring they have sufficient straw and bedding to relax in and keep cool in the heat is key, so making sure your straw spreading equipment is properly serviced for the summer is also important.
Pigs do also lack the ability to sweat, and therefore will go through other means to keep themselves cool, these cooling tactics include the following:
- Heavy panting
- Increased intake of water
- Lying on cooler surfaces and/or in the mud
As pigs are so sensitive to hotter conditions, it is best to not transport them during very hot weather. If pigs have to be transported to another location, it is important to check they are being moved in a trailer with sufficient ventilation and shade to avoid both heat stress and/or sunburn.
Other Signs of Animal Heat Stress
General signs farmers should look out for when tending to their livestock in the summer heat are as follows:
- Increased saliva production
- Reduced appetite
- Sharp increase in intake of water
- Higher/abnormal respiration rates
- Panting and loss of consciousness
Animals at Risk From Hot Weather
Animals with a higher risk of suffering from the heat include the young, those dark in colour, and those who have previously been sick and/or already have an issue with their respiration. Knowing how best to care for your livestock during the intense conditions summer brings is vital for farmers to ensure proper and effective care is given to their animals, minimising illness and therefore potential issues in productivity throughout the farm.