It has been a hot summer in Wisconsin thus far with temperatures consistently hitting 90 degrees or above. For humans, it’s possible to run inside and cool down in the air conditioning. For farm animals, they must resort to cooling down in other ways to avoid heat stress. And as a farmer or youth exhibitor, it’s up to you to make sure your animals have what they need to beat the heat.
Dr. Rachel O’Leary, DVM, of Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center says the solutions to prevent heat stress are simple, but incredibly important. For pigs, they need plenty of fresh water. Cows on pasture need shade, lambs with thick wool should be shaven, and animals such as goats and horses can be kept cool with plenty of shade and water. Dr. O’Leary adds that alpacas enjoy wade pools and will gladly get into belly-deep water to keep cool.
The signs of heat stress within an animal are rarely subtle and can be easily spotted. For many species, “if they get way overheated…they can start circling or convulsing…and you look at them and they just aren’t’ right.” Dr. O’Leary says if an animal of yours is exhibiting any sort of signs as such “serious measures need to be taken at that time.” It’s at this point that a vet call would be a really good idea.
O’Leary reminds livestock exhibitors in particular to be careful when moving animals in a trailer. Many livestock shows are still happening throughout the state this summer and it’s easy for an animal to succumb to heat stress while being moved. “A lot of people think when they’re trailering an animal and there’s not a lot of air flow that their animal will come off and be refreshed” instantly, but that’s not always the case. Dr. O’Leary says that while on a trailer, many animals are simply trying to keep their balance and might need a little bit of rest prior to getting unloaded. It’s at times like these when heat stress can easily set in.