The temperature has really been hot this summer! It’s important during this time for animal owners to think about some very important points to protect their pets and livestock. You need to provide appropriate shelter against the sun and ensure they have access to cool, clean water. It is also important to consider factors such as the animal’s size, age, health and thickness of hair. Some animals are more vulnerable to hot temperatures than others. Particular care should occur with older animals that sometimes have a harder time with heat. Livestock and pets can get very overheated, dehydrated, and possibly die from extreme temperatures.
Since dehydration is such a huge risk for animals in really hot weather, pet owners need to make sure they have plenty of fresh water. Ice and/or frozen water bottles can be floated in water to cool it down. Make sure when filling water bowls up that you run the water hose a few seconds until it runs cool. Most water sitting in the hose gets heated up from sitting in the sun. You can purchase a large, heavy livestock bowl if your animals are continuously turning the dish over, or dig a shallow hole and set the bowl into it to prevent spilling. Water intake during hot weather increases significantly. A 1,300-pound cow can drink 25 gallons of water on a hot day. Also, please remember that animals don’t eat as much food during hot weather.
Animals that regularly live outdoors can handle hot weather if they have proper shelter and water. They need a shelter that is tall enough to allow wind movement. Putting a tarp over a short dog pen can do more harm than good by creating a sauna-like environment. For shade, think about when your family goes to the beach all day. You need to get out of the sun for a few hours to get a break. Animals are the same way. They can also get sunburned just like we do.
Trees and some shrubs can provide good shade for your pets, just think about where the shade is during different times of the day to make sure they have good access to it. You’ll also need to think about what type of trees you have. Some trees provide better shade than others because of their thick leaves and branches. Hardwood trees are normally good shade providers. Pine trees with tiny needles may not be adequate unless you have several of them bunched together. One downside to having trees as shade instead of a shelter is that livestock can kill them over time from rubbing on them. Also, animals stepping on top of the soil around the trees can cause erosion of the root system which can cause them to be weak or die.
Animals may also need fans to help them cool off. Reducing the temperature lowers animal stress, improves animal health, and increases feeding efficiency. Also, clipping their hair can really help animals. Providing a pool with cool water can really help dogs to cool themselves down. If animals are panting and digging holes to cool off, they probably need your help.
You also need to think about when you work your animals. It’s good to work them during the morning hours when it is cooler. You never want to stress your animals out while sorting them in pens and running them through chutes. This becomes very critical during hot, humid weather. You can watch the weather forecast and work livestock on days that may be a little cooler if you have some flexibility. Also, when transporting livestock on trucks and trailers, its better to move them early in the morning or at night to prevent heat stress. With a few preparations, you can prevent unnecessary death in your livestock herd, increase the productivity of your operation, and keep your pets safe.
Tiffanee Conrad is the Richmond County livestock agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Rockingham.