How Our Livestock is Handling the Heat

On the corner of that little shed, is the kids', errrr, cattle's sprinkler.

This summer has been a steamer!  For the last 3 weeks temperatures have been in the 90s and the humidity has been through the roof.  It feels like a sauna outside.  There has been little relief from these temperatures, even at night. Many of our animals have been showing the effects this blistering heat, despite our best efforts.

For some reason, cattle don’t handle heat well.  When it gets hot, they will crowd together, looking for the coolest spot in their pen.  Which only makes things worse, as their body heat rises from being in close proximity to each other.  It doesn’t matter how much space they have, when they are hot, they all think the next guy has the coolest place to be, and they want to be there too.

The first hot day we had, I was doing chores for Justin, and the guys were loading hogs in the wee hours of the morning.  It was already hot.  My glasses fogged up every time I got out of the air conditioned tractor, the humidity was literally making everything damp with condensation, and the cattle were panting to stay cool.  That day, we lost 4 cattle to the heat.  They were nearly fat, and just couldn’t handle the temperatures.  We fared much better than some farmers around us.  Almost everyone I’ve talked to has a story about the cattle they lost to the heat that day.  Our local sale barn lost 100 head of cattle.   It’s devastating to hear the tales of cattle dropping like flies, as farmers scrambled to do whatever they could to cool the cattle off.

Some of the cattle just love the sprinkler, others do not.

We set up sprinklers in every yard of cattle, for them to stand under and cool off.  At first, the cattle didn’t want to be near it, but they quickly figured out that it was the place to be.  We even let some of the water run out of our manure pit back into the cattle yard, for the cattle to stand in.  That worked very well.  Did you know, cattle lose a majority of their body heat through their feet?  If you keep their feet cool, they will be cool.  So we made sure they had plenty of fresh bedding to stand in too.

Notice I haven’t mentioned our animals that are in confinement buildings?  That’s because they have been comfortable through all this heat.  Our hoop barn cattle haven’t even slowed down on what they eat.  Which is a really big sign that they are doing just fine in their shaded barn, which creates a natural breeze through it.  The deep bedding is also a factor in their comfort.   The hogs have also fared well through all this, as their barns are tunnel ventilated.  Which means that big fans pull the air through the building they are in, creating a refreshing breeze.

The hoop cattle have been cool as cucumbers through this heat wave.

The hogs have had a nice tropical breeze in their buildings as well.

We haven’t lost any more cattle since that very first day.  But the kids haven’t been able to play in their sprinkler either, as the cattle at our house have been playing in it.  We really need a break from the heat.  It’s too hot for anything here.  Even the crops don’t like it this hot.  Neither the crops nor the livestock eat and grow like they should when they are spending all their time keeping cool.  Some cool nights would be gladly welcome around here.  I hate to complain, as it will only be a few short months and we’ll be talking about _snow_.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Hoping it cools down there soon. 🙂 We had that same heat and humidty a few weeks ago….it is not good for anything or one!! I had the same thing happen to me…glasses fogged up when getting out of any airconditioned place–never had that happpen before! Hope you can stop by and say hi

    • Hi there! Love the recipe for chickaritos on your blog. Looks like an easy, different, healthy, kid-friendly recipe! I see a batch of these in my near future!

  2. This heat sucks! We lost 4 gilts in farrowing crates – they went into labor, they were hot and really just panicked quit pushing and died – it really sucks!
    And I did not know about cattle and their feet – very interesting!
    Hope it rains and gets cooler soon for all of us!

  3. Posted by CactusWest on August 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Possible culprits – Not so much the heat but the High Humidity and the Confinement.

  4. can you butcher out the cows when they die of heat or is the meat bad?

  5. near where we live there are a lot of circus people that have big cats and other meat eating animals so if a cow dies of natural of weather related causes they can be picked up to feed the big cats. there is a packing house that even butchers out animals like this, the meat is marked with a food based dye so people wll not use it.

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