Evening from our ridge in searing heat
We humans can escape the heat with fans and air conditioners, but what about our animal friends? They need our intervention lest they suffer from heat stress and possibly die. Here are some things we’ve learned since moving to this fiery climate that can help your animals weather the searing summer heat.
Teach animals to enjoy a blast of cool water from a hose, especially large creatures such as horses, cattle, pigs, and llamas that can’t conveniently be taken into the house to cool down. To do this, gently restrain the animal and begin by trickling cool but not frigid water on his legs and feet; don’t start mid-body where a blast of icy water can trigger body spasms. If you start gradually, most animals learn to enjoy hosing down. Keep in mind that woolly animals such as llamas and alpacas should be thoroughly dampened, down to the skin; if only the top layer is moist, wet wool holds in body heat instead of releasing it.
Maire says, “It’s hot!”
Provide sprinkler hoses and children’s wading pools for animals that like them. Llamas and alpacas, pigs, and livestock guardian dogs generally use wading pools. A depression in the earth periodically topped off with water during the heat of the day does the trick for one or two pigs.
Carlotta cools off in her mini-wallow.
Sheep and goats don’t like to be wet, so deep shade and cool drinking water are the keys to keeping them in the pink. Place water receptacles in the shade, top them off with cold water throughout the day, and freeze giant “ice cubes” in plastic containers to plop in each receptacle at intervals when it’s blazing hot outdoors.
Old Angel chills out in the shade.
Chickens weather heat by panting, fluffing their fathers, and hunkering down in soft dirt to stay cool. Watch them closely, and should one overheat, take her indoors, place her in a padded dog crate in an out-of-the-way place where she can relax, and train a fan on her until she’s up and around.
If animals give birth during a spell of sweltering weather, provide fans to keep mother and offspring cool. Young mammals don’t thermoregulate well for a week or two after birth, and a fan or two could save their lives.
Be aware of what heat stress looks like in the species you keep. Some, such as llamas and alpacas or chickens die very quickly when grossly overheated.
And don’t stress animals or poultry when it’s terribly hot outside. Don’t ride your horse, don’t shear your sheep, don’t trim your reluctant goat’s hooves, and don’t play Frisbee with your dog. If you must do these things, do them early in the morning before the day heats up. Midday and early evening are for resting.
Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.
Read Sue’s blog: Dreamgoat Annie