Here in the central part of Arizona, we’re pretty lucky. Temperatures are mild from November to April, so keeping your livestock healthy is fairly easy. By Memorial Day though, it starts to heat up outside. Summer temperatures can clock in at well over 100 degrees, which can cause severe heat stress in your livestock. It’s important to know how to help your livestock stay cool and healthy, especially here in the desert.
Winter in Arizona is a cinch compared to summer, unless you live up North where it snows. If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to maintain the good health of your livestock.
One thing to do is keep an eye on your livestock for any signs of sickness such as weakness, extensive shivering, lethargy, etc. Call the vet right away if you see something unusual, and separate the animal in a barn or other enclosure to make them more comfortable. If you have very young and/or very old livestock, keep a special eye on them—they may be less able to tolerate colder temps and have weaker immune systems, so they’re more likely to get sick. Horse blankets and windbreaks are good options for livestock who have a hard time tolerating the cold.
And finally, stock up on feed for cold days. Extra calories help livestock maintain body heat. Also be sure to check drinking water every day. It can freeze in low temperatures, which won’t do your livestock much good. Hydration is key to good health in every season of the year!
Unlike humans, cows don’t have many sweat glands. They cool themselves mainly through their breath, i.e. panting, like dogs! Horses, on the other hand, sweat through the pores in their skin just like humans. If your livestock are suffering from heat stress, they’ll show it. So keep an eye on them during the hot months of the year!
Here are a few signs your livestock may be suffering from heat stress:
Heat stress negatively impacts feed intake, milk production, and reproduction, while also increasing the risk of disease or even death depending on the health of your livestock. As you well know, keeping livestock in good health is very important for the continued success and profitability of your farm.
To keep your livestock healthy year-round, heed the advice below.
Grazing in the pasture provides most of your cattle’s vitamins and minerals, however as summer gets closer (and all through the hot season) you may want to take some additional precautions. Feed that has added nutrients is a good start. You can supplement your cattle’s diet with a mineral block, or loose minerals added to their food. Dairy cows need lots of grain, especially during the heat. It will help them keep producing fresh milk! For beef cattle, try adding protein blocks or tubs to their diet to support muscle growth.
What about horses? Start by giving them a good, high quality feed! To supplement your horse’s diet during summer time, feed salt and/or electrolytes. They can be added to feed to help replace nutrients lost when the horse is sweating, and the salt will encourage increased water consumption. Another option is to water down hay, or feed hay pellets and beet pulp soaked in water, for extra hydration. And let horses graze in the pasture often during summer—it provides more moisture than feeds do, and horses like it!
The location of your pasture is an important consideration for the health of your livestock. Natural shade from trees or buildings gives livestock a place to keep cool in the heat. At a minimum, have a steel structure they can go under for shade. You can even build one yourself! In addition, use sprinklers and/or a misting system to spray them down with cool water.
A great way to help your horses stay cool is to provide an area with deep, soft bedding. Here in Arizona the ground is hard and hot, especially during the summer! Deep shavings or pellets work well. Your horses will be happy to have a soft, cool spot to lie down and rest.
Your livestock will need to drink lots of water during the heat. Cattle will probably need at least two gallons per 100 pounds of body weight, while horses typically need 5 to 10 gallons every day. Clean water troughs once a week to keep them in top condition, and make sure they’re filled with cool water every day. Water can get hot in a hurry when temperatures are scorching, and just like you, your livestock likes a cool and refreshing drink! Another source of moisture is grass, so as mentioned above, letting your livestock graze will keep them healthy, as well as hydrated. Using fans for air ventilation will also keep your livestock cool, especially for cattle in confinement—reduced space means more susceptibility to heat stress.
If you run a farm for profit, you’re probably already an early riser. Early bird gets the worm, as they say! And early in the day is the time to work with your livestock during the summertime. This is when their body temperature is lowest, so they won’t get stressed out as quickly as they would during the hottest part of the day. This applies to transport too. Transporting cattle when they are suffering from heat stress can affect the quality of their meat. Keep your customers, and consumers, happy by having them transported early in the morning, or late in the evening, when it’s cooler.
Keeping your livestock healthy year-round will be simple when you use the information we’ve shared in this article. And when you stop into Shoppers Supply, you can find all you need to care for your livestock under one roof! We have everything from feed, to vitamins and supplements, to misting systems and fencing. Visit our Chandler or Apache Junction location and get everything you need for a thriving, productive farm!