Summer is an awesome, exciting time, full of cook-outs, horse and livestock shows and towards the later part of the summer, carnivals and fairs. One important factor to pay attention to in the midst of all this summer fun is heat stress and the effect it can have on your horses and livestock. Today’s blog post will focus on the signs of heat stress as well as precautions you can take to make sure your animals remain healthy during the hottest days of summer.
Equine and livestock comfort is important any time of year to make sure they remain healthy and in good working/showing condition. Humid and hot days pose the most danger to animals and humans alike. The difference between the two is that humans can recognize the signs of heat stress and do something about it. We can rest in the shade or go get a drink of water; animals can’t speak up for themselves and depend on us to be their advocate.
Most at risk
Animals at the greatest risk of stress from the heat include pregnant or lactating animals, very young and older animals, animals with darker coats, over-conditioned livestock, short-nosed dog breeds, animals with chronic health conditions and intensively managed livestock or those confined in enclosures with limited access to shade.
Signs of heat stress
The signs of heat stress can include livestock crowding together at the water tank or in the shade. Watching out for increased salivation, restlessness and muscle spasms is important, too. Also, keep notice of prolonged periods of panting, increased heartbeat and body temperature. Weakness, lack of coordination, bright red or pale sticky gums, vomiting, diarrhea and depression can be considered signs as well.
When heat stress strikes
Luckily these symptoms are preventable and easily treated; by being alert’ owners can help their animals recover quickly. Contact a veterinarian immediately if your animals experience stress symptoms or exhibit other unusual behavior.
Owners can take simple steps including providing shade or moving animals to shaded pens. Also, providing plenty of cool, clean drinking water and adding ice to keep it cool reduces the risk of heat stress greatly. Offering a secondary water source or larger container for pets and livestock outside during the day isn’t a bad idea either.
Spraying animals with water using a sprinkler with large droplets is a very successful way of cooling your horses and livestock down, too. Many people worry about how they can afford this in the heart of a drought when extra water is scarce. Investing in a rainwater harvester is probably your best bet. Many companies, including our affiliate company, FarmTek, offer products such as these. A rainwater harvester attaches to your gutter or drainage system and collects rainwater from your roof. The rainwater is drained into a storage tank via a drain pipe and remains there until you use it for watering the animals, gardens or cooling them to avoid heat stress.
It is also important to avoid unnecessary transportation, moving livestock in the late evening or early morning is best. Providing fans to improve air circulation and their temperament is a must, but for smaller animals, using frozen water bottles in hutches to lie against is also a great practice.
Livestock owners should also avoid overworking their animals. Cattle should be worked in the morning, when their body temperatures are low. Routine activities such as vaccination, hoof trimming and dehorning should be postponed until the weather cools. Commercial poultry growers should check their fans and inspect their backup generators in the event of a power outage.
When it comes to your horses and livestock, they’re part of your family, not to mention your livelihood. It’s always better to take preventative action instead of hoping for the best. Heat stress is nothing to mess around with. In the end you’ll be happier, your horses and livestock will be healthier and they’ll thank you for it.