We had another great question come in to the blog from a reader:
Q: “When it gets really hot in Nebraska during the summertime, how do animals stay cool?”
A: Keeping animals cool is a challenge, and it depends on a lot of factors: is there adequate shade, do they have lots of room to spread out, is there enough water? When animals become hot because of extremely high temperatures, they are affected by heat stress, which overwhelms their natural ability to regulate their body temperature.
Cattle will stand up as a first sign of heat stress to exposure more of their body surface to dissipate heat. There are several simple ways to overcome heat stress in cattle, for example, by providing shade from trees or buildings. Air movement from ventilation, from fans and windows, also helps.
Another way to reduce heat stress is by providing adequate sources of cool, clean drinking water. Feeding cattle at night also helps, by decreasing the heat they produce through the consumption of food.
It is not uncommon to see cattle submerged in a pond to reduce their body temperature. The same effect can also be achieved by spraying the animals with water, but this works best if they are sprayed before they become stressed.
Hogs are similar to cattle in how they try to remove heat from their bodies. They try to increase dissipation, by finding a cool spot to sprawl out and cool down, and they increase their respiration by panting, which increases air flow and evaporation of water from the lungs, which releases additional heat.
Pigs do not sweat like humans do. Cool drinking water provides the most heat relief and these other practices also help: wet skin cooling (such as wallowing in the mud), adequate ventilation, feeding foodstuffs that are more nutrient-dense, increasing minimum floor space, and providing shade.
Poultry also are prone to heat stress during periods of high temperatures and humidity. While chickens do acclimate to heat over time, sudden heat waves can cause trouble. Without sweat glands to cool their skin, birds rely on their respiratory system. Chickens pant to cool themselves, because the panting evaporates water from the throat to lower their body temperature, but this can lead to dehydration, so providing a constant supply of water is very important.
In short, if our animals are getting warm in the heat of the summer, we as farmers use these additional practices to cool them down.
— Ben & Jamie Keep, Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee members and Howard County Farm Bureau members
Keep asking great questions! Our Nebraska farmers and ranchers look forward to explaining what they do every day to produce safe food for you and your family.