Tips for helping livestock as mercury rises

High heat can cause as much stress on livestock as it does humans.

Animals at high risk of heat stress include young animals, dark colored animals and animals that have been sick or have a previous history of respiratory disease.

There are ways to alleviate the strain. Here are some of species-specific tips.

Chickens (including backyard broods:

• Provide shade, tarps and sheets/blankets will help in a pinch.

• Add electrolytes to their water and keep water cold throughout heatwaves.

• Avoid corn and scratch. Fresh fruit and vegetables create less digestive heat.

• Keep interaction to a minimum to reduce their overall activity.

• Consider freezing pieces of watermelon overnight and feeding them as treats throughout the day.

• Misters are useful because body temperatures will cool as the water evaporates.


• Provide adequate cool and clean water.

• Rotate through fields more rapidly. Taller grass tend to be cooler on the surface than shorter grass.

• When possible, keep animals near sources of daytime shade.

• Feed cattle more in the evening than mornings to shift the heat created by fermentation to cooler, nighttime hours.

• Corn is a better food source than hay or straw during extreme heat. Cows’ digestive systems produce less heat when breaking down corn.

• Monitor cattle behavior regularly. It is more likely cows will stand during hot weather to allow air to move around them on all sides. Labored, open-mouthed breathing can be a sign of intense struggle.


•Restrict exercising your horse to the early morning and late afternoon/evening when it is coolest. Electrolytes can be added to water and feed to replace essential salts lost through sweating.

• Heat stressed horses can be cooled down by hosing with cool water, starting from the feet and moving up slowly, sponging with water or by placing wet towels over them. Excess water must be scraped off afterwards unless there is a good breeze. Water in the coat on a hot, humid, still day will act as an insulator and it will quickly warm up again.


• Pigs over 100 pounds can quickly develop life-threatening levels of heat when the mercury levels rise to triple digits.

• Provide plenty of water and some method of cooling their skin, a sprinkler or mister will do.

• Make sure there good ventilation wherever pigs congregate.

• Shift primary feedings to evening hours so digestion takes place in cooler nighttime temperatures.

• Avoid handling pigs to keep their stress levels low.


• Sheep and goats tend to be less susceptible to heat stress than swine, cattle, llamas, and alpacas. 

• Provide cool, fresh water sources.

• Provide shade, pastures with trees are the simplest answer, but makeshift tents and awnings will do.


• Provide cool water to drink.

• Pools or ponds to wade in help keep heat stress at bay. Shaded, concrete floors will suffice.

• Monitor for signs of heat stress, which include nasal flaring, open-mouthed breathing, increased breathing rate, drooling, depression, and loss of appetite.


• Make sure hives have a suitable water source. During extreme heat, bees should be on the surface of the water collecting it for the hive.If you’re raising If they are not present, the water should be checked.

• Place umbrellas or tents, allowing for proper ventilation, to shade hives.

• Remove metal roofs or cover it with something white.