Cattle huddled in shade

AMES, Iowa — The summer heat will return to most of Iowa before the seasons turn, according to the National Weather Service.

Each species of livestock reacts to heat differently. However, the common principle is to maintain good ventilation, provide shade and access to clean, cool water, and limit moving animals during the hottest hours of the day, according to a an Iowa State Extension news release.

Swine care

Pigs do not have sweat glands, making them especially susceptible to heat stress, according to Jason Ross, director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State University. Swine producers commonly rely on cooling fans and evaporative cooling systems that help the animal increase evaporative heat loss and stay cool, and keeping the system running at optimal levels is critical during periods of extreme heat.

Ross suggests producers make sure all controllers and fans are functioning properly, including any misters or cooling cells, and be sure the backup generators are ready to operate in the event of a power outage.

Beef cattle

Compared to swine, cattle can tolerate higher temperature at lower relative humidity because cattle can dissipate their body heat more effectively by sweating.

However, cattle are more prone to stress when the humidity rises, and need the same level of care as other livestock.

Common solutions for cattle include access to clean, cool water, shade and good ventilation. Avoid moving cattle during the daytime and afternoon, when temperatures are at the highest, because the energy cattle expend while moving will cause even more stress.

This may be a good time to install some additional fans or water misting systems, or to make sure the systems you have are fully functioning.

Evaluate your cattle in the morning and again in the afternoon to make sure they are coping with the heat. Pay close attention, as the rapid change in temperature may catch some at-risk cattle (cattle at end of feeding period or cattle with previous respiratory disease) dealing with excessive heat stress.

Dairy cattle

Access to cool, clean water is vital for dairy cows during periods of high heat. A dairy cow consumes up to 50% of her daily water intake within an hour after milking, so providing fresh, clean water at the parlor exit is an excellent way to encourage water consumption.

Fans and sprinkler systems are commonly used on dairy farms, but must be properly installed and functional to provide the necessary air and water movement.

The idea is to soak the cow to her skin and turn the water off for a long enough period to allow the moving air to dry her. While drying, heat is removed from the skin during the evaporation process, cooling the cow. When people climb out of a swimming pool and experience a chill until their skin dries, they are experiencing the same process.

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