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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Advice: Reduce impacts of high temps on animals

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has advised farmers to take steps to protect their livestock during the current spell of hot weather, which brings high temperatures that pose a risk to livestock.

He said it is important that farmers avoid any serious health and welfare problems arising due to the heat”.

He remarked that “All animals should be checked more frequently in hot weather, particularly animals at higher risk of heat stress, including young, pregnant or sick animals.”

Advice for farmers

Key points to reduce the impact of high temperatures on animals include:

1.      Ensure plentiful supply of drinking water. 

  • The number of watering points and water flow may need to be increased during hot weather as demand increases.
  • Drinking points should be checked more often during hot weather to ensure they are working and that water pressure is adequate.
  • Stock should be monitored for signs of problems with water supply such as queuing or crowding at water points.

2.      Ensure access to suitable shade or shelter

  • Vulnerable animals such as very young, old, or sick animals may need to be moved to a location with additional shade or shelter where they can be monitored more closely.
  • Holding areas for livestock should have shaded areas available where possible and holding times should be minimised.
  • Outdoor poultry should have access to shade.
  • Outdoor pigs require access to a wallow to cool down, especially if the temperature is above 25° C, as these animals are particularly vulnerable to heat stress.
3.      Minimise handling and transport

Movement or handling of cattle during hot weather can increase their body temperature by 0.5 to 3.5° C, causing heat stress.

  • Minimise handling in hot weather- if necessary, ensure animals are handled as early or late in the day as possible to coincide with cooler temperatures.
  • Avoid transporting animals in hot weather where possible.
  • If transport is necessary, plan to minimise journey length, transport during cooler hours and reduce the stocking density to allow for more airflow inside the vehicle.

4.      Intensively housed species (pigs and poultry) need additional checks. 

  • Monitor the temperature in the animal accommodation closely and adjust ventilation accordingly.
  • Where automatic ventilation systems are in place, increase the frequency of monitoring of alarm and back-up systems.
  • Use water sprinklers for pigs to help cool them down.
  • Reduce stocking densities where necessary to increase air space and flow and to reduce the heat generated by the animals themselves.

5.      Monitor livestock closely for health issues or heat stress

  • Livestock should always be checked more frequently in hot weather. Animals at a higher risk of heat stress include young, dark-coloured or pregnant animals, animals recovering from illness, pigs and high-producing dairy cows.
  • Signs of heat stress include faster breathing or panting; loss of appetite; increased water intake; drooling; listlessness or lethargy. In severe cases, animals may become unconscious.
  • If you suspect an animal may be heat stressed, it is vital to act quickly. Steps to manage heat-stressed animals include moving them to shade or shelter; offering cool water; using sprinklers for cattle, pigs and horses, or allowing the animals to stand in cool water; increase ventilation for housed species such as pigs and poultry; and reduce the stocking density to allow animals to lie out. If there is no improvement, seek veterinary assistance without delay.
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