Prolonged summer heat wave could stress livestock, horses and pets



PHOTO: Stephen Patton, UK Agricultural Communications Specialist
LEXINGTON, Ky.

The Bluegrass State is poised to see an extended period of mostly dry conditions and a prolonged heat wave. This will create dangerous conditions for livestock, horses and pets.

“A heat advisory is already in effect through Saturday for portions of the Purchase area in Western Kentucky, as highs will rise into the middle 90s and heat indices could top 105 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Matthew Dixon, meteorologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “The hot and humid air mass will stick around through the end of the work week and into the weekend. Looking at Friday and Saturday, highs are forecast to rise into the 90s statewide with upper 90s attainable across Central and Western Kentucky.”

Dixon said some could see heat indices push close to 110 degrees on each of these days. Not a lot of recovery is expected during the overnight hours, with lows only dropping into the 70s for much of the state and dew points remaining elevated.

This will create a prolonged situation where the livestock heat stress index will move from the danger category to emergency category.

“Air temperature and humidity can combine into a one-two punch that makes it hazardous for people and animals,” Dixon said. “Dew point temperatures above 65 degrees lead officials to declare livestock heat stress emergency alerts.”

The UK Agricultural Weather Center developed the Livestock Heat Stress Index helps producers know when heat stress could create a problem for their animals. Periods of heat stress call for livestock producers to be vigilant in making sure their animals are able to withstand the conditions.

UK dairy specialist Jeffrey Bewley said the most important things producers can do are to provide cool, clean water and shade, with buildings as open as possible to help keep animals’ internal body temperature within normal limits. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals also are beneficial.

“To keep cattle from becoming overheated, you do not want to work them during heat stress conditions, including veterinary work, reproductive checks or vaccinations,” Bewley said.

Producers should also avoid transporting livestock during a heat danger or emergency period. If they must move animals during this time, producers should try to do so with fewer animals per load. Planning trips so producers can load animals immediately before leaving and quickly unload upon arrival can help minimize the risk.

Regulating body temperature becomes difficult for horses when temperatures exceed 90 degrees, so avoid exercising them during very hot periods. When humidity is high, temperatures much lower than 90 degrees can pose problems.

Horse owners can reduce heat stress by scheduling activities during the cooler part of the day and giving horses plenty of water. Transporting horses during the cooler hours of the morning or evening can help. To reduce the risk of dehydration and heat stress, give horses access to water before, during and after transportation in hot weather.

Offer horses frequent drinks of water during work in hot weather. Allowing them to drink during work helps maintain water balance and relieves the urge to drink a lot of water after exercise. After a hard workout, water horses out gradually.

Even non-working horses will double their water intake during hot weather, so be sure plenty of water is available to horses in pastures, paddocks and stalls.

Lactating mares will have especially high water requirements, because they are using water for milk production and regulating body temperature.

Hot weather also will increase horses' need for salt, because salt is lost during sweating. Heavy rains can "melt" salt blocks in pastures, so salt licks should be checked.

Pet owners should provide fresh, clean water at all times and make sure outdoor pets have areas of shade. It’s also a good idea to limit exercise on hotter days. Never leave pets in a parked car, as temperatures inside can quickly reach dangerous levels and pets can suffer irreversible organ damage or death.

 

Visit the UK Ag Weather Center website at http://weather.uky.edu to keep up with current weather, forecasts, heat stress indices and more.

Contact: 

Contact: Matthew Dixon or Tom Priddy, 859-218-4363; Jeffrey Bewley, 859-257-7543

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