There are many causes of heat stress in livestock and it can affect animals of all shapes and sizes, especially in weather conditions such as those experienced in Ireland recently.
Light coloured animals or those with pinkish skin are the most prone to heat stress and can even become sunburnt. When this occurs the burned skin will become red, raised and can even peel. In severe cases, it can become infected, which can be dangerous.
Heat stress or sunburn is very uncomfortable for livestock and affects their overall productivity and body condition. Body condition is affected due to vital nutrients, used to maintain performance, being used by the body to repair affected skin.
This causes a number of signs and symptoms in stock, some of which are visible and some invisible, internal signs, which include:
- Lethargy, Decreased activity and a refusal to lie down.
- Panting or increased respiratory rate.
- Animals seeking shade
- Excessive drooling and sweating
- Increased urination and water intake.
- Overall agitation.
- A loss of performance - drop in milk yields, milk quality, body weight and body condition.
- Cases of Milk fever increase
- Decreased fertility.
- Increased uterine infections.
- Uterine Prolapse more common.
- Laminitis more common.
- Animal collapsing into coma or convulsions.
- Increased embryo mortality and calves born premature and small in size.
- Increases somatic cell counts in dairy animals and increased risk of mastitis.
- Mammary gland infections increase.
- Affects wool quality in sheep.
- Ruminal acidosis
What is the best way to prevent heat stress or sunburn? Keep reading and find out! There are many simple practices that can be put in place on your farm, to help decrease the likelihood of heat stress and/or sunblock in your livestock.
This is probably the simplest and most effective way of ensuring your stock are protected.
Regardless of the warm weather, animals should have access to a clean water supply at all times. During times of heat stress, livestock tend to take in a lot more water to cope. Regular checking and changing of water sources is vital in unusually warm temperatures, to ensure water cleanliness and quality. For example, In dairy cattle, the general rule is that cows should take in four times more water than their daily milk yield.
A very simple and excellent way of protecting your stock. Providing your animals with shelter on pastures, via hedges or even DIY shelters, is an easy way of ensuring all-around protection. This allows the animals to decide themselves when they need shelter from the heat.
If animals are housed inside, it is vitally important to ensure there is adequate ventilation. As you well know, most sheds are made from varying types of metal, which mean they absorb heat. Would you sit in a galvanized shed on a day where temperatures hit 25 degrees? More than likely not!
Adding some salt to any rations may be helpful in preventing ruminal acidosis, which is a symptom.
One could also implement a new feeding schedule, where animals are only fed in cooler times of the day. This would enable the livestock to better digest the feed, as temperature affects digestibility. The less concentrates fed the better, but it is vital to ensure your stock are eating and not losing condition. Make sure any feed given to stock is fresh, as in times of higher heats the fermentation process can begin and the feed will then turn bad.
Other options -
For those animals with lightly coloured coats or pink coloured skin, sunblock can be used. Apply sunblock made specifically for babies to any area not adequately protected. Baby sunblock is used as there are fewer cases of irritation. If an animal has been sunburnt in a part of its body before, it is likely to occur again. This should be the first area where sunblock is applied.
Otherwise, mud can be applied to the susceptible areas. Mud is used by pigs, who have little protection from the sun, as homemade sunscreen. Why not use it on other stock too?
Don’t forget to also protect yourself from the sun! Your health is just as important as the animals and you are of no help to them if your bed-ridden yourself!