Animals with white or light coloured coats or lots of pinkish skin are worst affected. Areas of burned skin will be red and raised and as it peels, if severe, can
become infected especially as the animal may scratch it.
Not only would the animal feel discomfort but it will affect their overall productivity to some extent.
Nutrients needed for optimal development and performance will be utilised in the body to repair the damaged skin, which in the dairy cow can lead to
decreased milk production and in sheep, may affect wool quality. In fact, sheep can be burned either sheared or unsheared since the radiation can penetrate their wool.
Luckily pigs have adapted to wallow in mud as a natural sunblock, they are often pink and light coloured and would feel the sun acutely.
In the US, cattle on the range are commonly developing what is called “cancer eye”. It’s exactly what it sounds like and is most often found in Hereford type cattle
with light coloured skin around the eye area. Apart from being horribly unpleasant for the animal it also renders the meat unfit for consumption.
Also, at pasture the chlorophyll in some wheat plants can release a toxin in the body which increases sensitivity to the sun. Weeds such as clover, St. John’s Wort,
and nettles are culprits of photosensitivity which may contribute to liver damage and neurological disorders in rare and extreme cases.
If your animals are strip grazed away from the shade of hedgerows, sources recommend applying a baby formula sunblock if possible to protect areas that are
more vulnerable to sunburn. Animals with greater areas of white (for example in breeds such as Belted Galloway) are high risk. If sever sunburn occurs just once
the affected area can be extremely problematic for the rest of the animal’s days. Investing in some animal friendly sunblock would be better again as many human
sunscreens contain zinc or zinc oxide among other agents which can be toxic in large doses. You may only need to use it on one or two days out of 365, but it’s well worth having.
(Same goes for your dog – there are even doggie sunglasses, the aptly named “Doggles” - on the market as many dogs with white colouration will often have trouble
in summer sunlight, with bull terriers in particular likely to develop eye problems. More on that here.)
Alternatively, if you’re stuck you could always mix up and apply some mud! No joke, it’s better than nothing, something to coat the skin and form a temporary barrier.
On the plus side again it’s natural, so it can’t harm your animal. Donkeys and horses roll in sand and mud out of instinct for this purpose, but cattle weren’t really built for that.
So you could *wince* give them a dig out…
And finally, farmers need sunscreen too! Factor 15 is the lowest recommended SPF to offer proper protection to your skin. Staying hydrated is just as important though.
Be sure to take plenty of water out with you for those thankless all-day jobs like fencing.