Livestock feeling heat

A LED marquee at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center shows a temperature of 106 degrees.

The temperature gauge inside one vehicle read 100 degrees earlier this week.

With temperatures reaching the 100s, Sampson County residents are not the only ones feeling the heat. Farm animals are feeling the scorch too.

Officials from the N.C. Cooperative Extension are encouraging farmers to keep livestock cool. Under what she called miserable conditions, Sampson County Extension Director Eileen Coite indicated how precautions should be taken.

“This is the time to make sure animals have water, shade if possible, and electricity to keep cooling systems operating on hog farms,” Coite said. “Farm operators and workers should take breaks, drink plenty of water and schedule the work routine accordingly.”

Throughout Sampson County, cattle huddle under shade trees and hogs lounge on a wet, slatted floor to cool off. Coite stated how it’s important to understand how heat affects animal productivity and how to helps animals deal with the conditions. When it comes to livestock management, the main focus is the productivity of the herd, which may include growth or milk production.

“In the summer months, we can always count on a production decline in one or more of these areas, so it’s important to make every effort to help animals be as comfortable as possible,” Coite said. Most ways to deal with the heat are pretty self explanatory, such as providing shade and plenty of cool, clean water. Animals out on pasture should always have somewhere to go for shade, whether it be trees or a man made shelter, such as a run in shed or barn. This is especially crucial during the hot afternoon hours.

Water is another important element which should be provided to animals as much as possible. The majority of stock tanks refill themselves with float systems, but Coite said it should be checked frequently for cleanliness and proper functioning. She also noted that goats and sheep are notorious for finding ways to soil their water, so it should be checked regularly. For hogs, their watering systems are provided in a timed trough or nipples. Therefore, paying attention to those methods, to ensure functioning, is critical.

Cooling systems, which include misters and cool cells are used to help hogs and poultry inside. It also provides shade for the animals.

“Since they can’t cool themselves as we can by sweating, we need to be sure these cooling systems are functioning properly, especially during the hot afternoon and evening hours,” Coite said about the animals who limited natural ways to stay cool.

Cattle and horses can be sprayed off on the days with high temperatures.

“Horses are a little different, in that not only are some involved in lactation and growth, but we also ask them to work by riding,” Coite said. “It’s pretty obvious that riding in the cooler hours of the morning or late day is easier on both horse and rider.”

Horses are also better at sweating than most livestock, but hosing and sponging them with cool water after each ride will bring their heart rate and respiration back to normal. Food should also be delivered when the horse has a normal heart rate, when it’s rested.

Coite added that working with livestock is the same as any other outdoor job. She also advised everyone should do what’s best for them in the coolest hours of the day and take it easy as the day heats up.

“This will make life easier on the animals and us, and hopefully help them perform as best as possible in these conditions,” Coite said. “Not to mention its better on us.”