With expected temperatures of high 90s the next few days, the WVMA reminds livestock owners to take extra precautions during the extreme heat. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), when temperatures soar into the upper 90s, even animals accustomed to range conditions can suffer heat stress to the point of illness or death.
“All animals are at risk for heat stress, but animals that are in the last stages of pregnancy, nursing animals, very young or old, or ill are at greatest risk,” says Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt, DATCP’s State Veterinarian.
Dr. Robert Farruggio, Jefferson Veterinary Clinic, explains heat stress occurs in cattle when they are unable to regulate their body temperature. Heat stress typically happens when the temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is higher than 50 percent.
Signs of livestock heat illness include heavy panting and breathing, drooling, dry or hot skin, and refusal to eat or drink. During extreme heat illness, livestock may become uncoordinated and eventually will lie down but not be able to get up.
If you suspect heat illness in livestock, seek veterinary attention right away.
“Heat stroke requires immediate attention to save the animal,” says Ehlenfeldt. The DATCP suggests moving the animal to a shaded, cooler area, as well as ventilating enclosed areas. Always use lukewarm, never cold, water to sponge down or hose off the animal to lower its temperature.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways livestock owners can prevent heat illness.
“The good news is that with proper care most animal can safely make it through a heat wave,” says Ehlenfeldt.
Ehlenfeldt recommends the following tips to keep livestock safe during the extreme heat:
Dr. Bob Leder, United Veterinary Service, reminds cattle owners to make sure sprinkler systems in free stall barns are working well and the fans are moving air over the cattle with maximum capacity. Air movement coupled with evaporative cooling can greatly reduce the chance for heat illness in livestock.
Be sure not to forget about providing comfort in the cattle holding area.
“An often overlooked area is the holding pen going into the milking parlor,” says Leder. “If there is no cooling system in place in the holding area, soaking the cattle with water to cool them will help.”
Following all these tips can help ensure your livestock beat the heat this summer.
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Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association 2801 Crossroads Drive, Suite 1200 | Madison, WI 53718 | Phone: (608) 257-3665 | Fax: (608) 257-8989
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