It’s Heating Up, So Keep Your Livestock Comfortable

Westfield, WI; July 17, 2019

It’s fair week and one thing is for sure… it’s going to be a hot one this year.  With all of the days of the fair forecasted to be in the 80s or above (except for Sunday), it is important that all livestock exhibitors have a game plan in place for keeping your animals cool.

The National Weather Service has issued a Heat Advisory notice for Thursday through Friday night.  Heat index values for these days will exceed 100, possibly even 110.

National Weather Service Heat Index Chart. Relative humidity is on one axis with temperature on the other axis. Chart is labeled with bands of color indicating four different categories: caution, extreme caution, danger, extreme danger. These are colored in shades of yellow, orange, and red. This helps indicate the likelihood of heat disorders with prolonged exposure to the heat or strenuous activity.

What is the Heat Index anyway?

The heat index is a measure of humidity and air temperature combined to give you a better idea of what the temperature feels like.

View more information on the heat index from the National Weather Service.


Getting animals to the fair

When transporting animals to the fair, it is important to consider what time of day they are being transported in hot weather like we are experiencing.  Obviously as an exhibitor, you have a set window of when you need to arrive with your animals, but try to time your transport and arrival with the coolest parts of the day when possible: early morning or late evening.  Be sure that trailer ventilation is open, and unload as soon as possible-don’t delay as temperatures in a trailer can climb rapidly when not in motion with livestock on board.

Once you are at the fair

Be vigilant in giving your animals access to fresh, COOL water.  This will need to be done more frequently than in cooler weather, and you will need to do this several times throughout the day, not just one morning watering and one evening watering.  When possible, allow access to water at all times.  Animals can be cooled down by soaking with water when needed.

Consider bringing a fan for your animals.  Air movement helps keep the temperature more comfortable, and assists with evaporative cooling (the reduction in temperature when a liquid evaporates).  Be sure to secure your fans in a safe, secure manner.  For any pens that may be getting afternoon sun, you may consider using a tarp as a sun shade if it doesn’t interfere with airflow in the barn.

As usual, there will be some big barn fans provided by the meat animal auction committee and the fair to keep air moving in the barns.

Signs of heat stress

Watch livestock carefully for signs of heat stress.  Signs include:

  • Open mouth breathing.
  • Panting.
  • Slobbering or excess salivation.
  • Crowding or fighting when being watered.
  • Drastic increase in water intake.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Trembling.
  • Refusal to stand up.

When temperatures are hot, your animals should be drinking more water than in cooler temperatures.  Drinking water is a method of body temperature regulation.

In the video above: be on the look out for signs of animals being hot. In this short example you will see a chicken exhibiting open mouth breathing, one of the first noticeable signs of the start of heat stress.

What to do if your animal is showing signs of heat stress

  • Be sure your animal is drinking plenty of water.
  • Don’t try to move the animal.
  • Contact the veterinarian on staff if you suspect your animal is experiencing heat stress.

Strategies to keep animals cool will vary by species.  It is important to note that if an animal is experiencing heat stress, you should NOT soak it with extremely cold water.  Water can be used to cool an animal, but it should be lukewarm to cool water, not cold.

black and white rabbit resting in cage

Normal posture for a rabbit.

New Zealand rabbit stretched out to try to stay cool.

This rabbit is stretched out to try to stay cool by increasing the amount of surface area of skin exposed to air flow in its enclosure.

For more tips on keeping your livestock comfortable at the fair, check out the Livestock Comfort Factsheet written by Extension Youth Livestock Specialist, Bernie O’Rourke.