How to protect your livestock from the heat

By: Anthony Growe - Extension at Your Service

With the intense heat we have experienced over the last couple of weeks, it’s important to think about our livestock that we keep outside.

There are two necessities that come to mind when I think about 90 plus degree days. Water and Shade. All animals should have access to an abundance of cool, clean water. Cool water helps lower the animal’s body temperature which reduces heat stress. On an extremely hot day, cattle can drink over 25 gallons of water while horses may consume up to 10. With a larger amount of water required in the summer months, it is important that livestock have access to a stock tank or trough that can constantly supply enough water.

Some livestock owners fill their troughs or tanks and leave the hose trickling to keep it full. This method wastes water and makes a lot of mud, especially if there are several animals drinking at once. A stock tank equipped with a float valve is a great and inexpensive way to ensure that your livestock are getting all of the water they need without making a muddy mess. There have been some instances where I have seen a herd of cows drinking from a single 100-gallon trough. Although it had a constant flow of water, when the cattle lined up to take a drink, the stock tank was emptied because the flow rate of the water source was not quick enough to keep it full. This usually resulted in the trough being flipped over and stomped into the mud. A larger stock tank able to hold more water will take longer to empty when animals come drink. This gives the float valve time to re-fill the trough and will ensure your livestock will have a supply of water.

The second necessity that should be provided during the hot summer months is adequate shade. It’s a common sight to see animals or even people seeking out shade when the sun is beating down during the heat of the day. When horses and cattle are constantly exposed to the sun, they can experience heat exhaustion, sunburn and even dehydration.

Tree lines are common areas in pastures where cows, horses, and goats tend to lounge where they can cool off. If there are no trees in your pastures then man made shelters like a run-in shed or a shade cloth should be available. When planning to build a shelter for your livestock make sure it’s large enough to comfortably house all of your animals and that there is good air flow.

If shade is not available in certain pastures, then allow livestock to graze those fields throughout the evening and then move them to shaded pastures in the morning before temperatures rise. Providing shade for livestock is not only humane but it can also increase your animals’ performance. When horses are worked in the heat, they can lose up to 3 gallons of sweat during the day. This highlights the importance of allowing them to rest in the shade when we’re experiencing high temperatures.

Research from the University of Florida has shown that when cattle had access to shade, they gained more weight throughout the summer months compared to those with no access to shade. Giving your animals access to cool, clean water and shade is a humane practice that will pay off.

If you have any questions about managing your livestock or pastures please call Anthony Growe, agricultural Extension agent, at (910) 997-8255

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Protecting livestock from the heat

Anthony Growe

Extension at Your Service