Fall Heat Possibilities are a Reminder to Keep Livestock Cool
by ISU Extension and Outreach
August 30, 2019

By Chris Kick, Jason Ross, Grant Dewell, and Jennifer Bentley–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

 Swine Care

Pigs do not have sweat glands, making them especially susceptible to heat stress.  Swine producers commonly rely on cooling fans and evaporative cooling systems that help the animal to increase evaporative heat loss and stay cool, and keeping the system running at optimal levels is critical during periods of extreme heat.Make sure all controllers and fans are functioning properly, including any misters or cooling cells, and be sure that the backup generators are ready to operate, in the event of a power outage.

 Beef Cattle

Common solutions for cattle include access to water, shade, and good ventilation. Avoid moving cattle 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 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 water is vital for dairy cows during periods of high heat. A dairy cow consumes up to fifty percent 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.


 Like swine, poultry do not have sweat glands and therefore cannot rid their body of heat by sweating. Birds are subject to heat stress when the humidity and air temperature rise uncontrollably. They often respond by panting, which may help, but also expends energy and requires the bird to consume more water, to account for moisture lost through panting. High humidity decreases poultry heat loss from the lungs, which makes the birds more prone to heat stress. Airflow and ventilation are key to managing poultry during hot weather. Producers also may want to feed at night, or after temperatures begin to fall.

Feed and water supplements may also be necessary. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, electrolytes can be added to a flock’s drinking water for up to three days. Potassium chloride electrolytes appear to increase water intake when provided in drinking water at 0.6% concentration. You should start providing electrolytes prior to the heat stress period.  Sodium bicarbonate in the feed, or use of carbonated water, is useful for hens in egg production.

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