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Whow! What a difference a few days can make. It was just over a week ago that temperatures were in the low 90°’s. Now, this week, we are basking in the mid 70°’s. But, not to worry, there will still be plenty of hot, humid summer days ahead of us! We aren’t the only ones that suffer from the heat of summer. Farm animals feel the heat, too.
The University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center provides warnings of the potential danger to livestock. Livestock become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees according to Tom Priddy, UK Agricultural Meteorologist. The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity and is used to describe how it feels outside.
The Agricultural Weather Center regularly monitors heat indices across the state and provides an index of its own – the Livestock Heat Stress Index – to help producers know when heat stress could create a problem for their animals. The county-by-county index indicates three levels of heat stress: no stress, danger stress and emergency stress.
During periods of heat stress, you need to be vigilant in making sure livestock are adequately prepared. One of the most important things you can do is provide cool, clean drinking water. Providing an adequate source of drinking water helps to keep animals’ internal body temperatures within normal limits. Above-ground water lines need to be shaded so they do not can act as solar water heaters and make the water too hot to drink.
It is also important for animals to have shade and for buildings to be as open as possible for adequate ventilation. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals can also be beneficial.
It is best to avoid working animals during periods of heat stress. Producers should also avoid transporting livestock during high levels of heat stress. When livestock must be transported, haul fewer animals per load. Planning trips so the animals can be loaded immediately before leaving and unloaded quickly upon arrival can likewise help minimize the risk.
Producers who want to keep up-to-date with the livestock heat stress index can access the Agricultural Weather Center’s website http://weather.uky.edu or go to the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service’s website: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/trimble/ and click on the weather link.
Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.