With Iowa sweating through many days of soaring summer temperatures, livestock farmers are working hard to keep their animals cool.
They are making sure ventilation systems are working properly. They are rechecking bedding to make sure it stays dry and setting up misting systems to keep animals cool and healthy.
Story County Farm Bureau member David Struthers says he’s been raising hogs a long time, so weather extremes are just a part of raising livestock.
He adds sprinklers and misters in his outdoor hoop barns and even inside his confinement barns.
He’s learned that ventilation and dry bedding go a long way in keeping his pigs cooler.
"Animals can get heat-stressed like people can," Struthers said. "But pigs don’t perspire. They don’t have the cooling mechanism like people do, so we have to create the cooler environment for them."
He said limiting activities in the hottest part of the day is important.
"When we’re loading or moving pigs, we do it earlier in the morning, move them slowly and make more trips so they have plenty of room in the trailer," Struthers said.
Reducing stress is key
The key is livestock care, says Renee Adams, a Jones County Farm Bureau member and farmer near Monticello.
"The less stress, the less you move them around, the better it is for them (the livestock)," Adams said on the sidelines of the Jones County Fair last week. Her children, who show bucket-bottle calves, pigs, cattle and horses at the fair, were pulling double-duty last week caring for animals at the fair and at home.
"They keep on checking their animals all the time to make sure none are getting overheated," Adams said.
"They constantly check the animals, the misters, the fans, and they keep fresh water and feed in front of them."
She said they keep their chore schedules the same so they don’t interrupt their animals’ routine. However, frequent checks on feed and water ensure their livestock are cool and comfortable, she said.
"In this extreme heat, they’re not going to want to eat, so the cooler you keep them, the more they eat. This means our market schedule is kept on track as well," she said.
Adam Glienke, a Cherokee County Farm Bureau member in Washta, said careful management before the summer heat even arrives is key to keeping his cattle cool as temperatures near the triple digits.
"Our pastures are all split up for rotational grazing, so when these hot summer weeks come, our cow-calf pairs are in the pastures with the shade trees and wide creeks," Glienke said.
Extra water, more shade
Extra water tanks are added to the feedlot, as are shaded areas.
"It’s all about cow comfort," he said. "They’re not going to grow or gain if they’re miserable."
To avoid the extreme heat, Sharyl Bruning and her husband raise their calves from October and sell them at the end of June. This avoids extreme heat most of the time, she said.
Still, Bruning said, they have to take care of their cattle in the heat, even in June.
"The sprinklers are set on a thermostat, so it stays at a cooler temperature," said Bruning, a Monona County Farm Bureau near Mapleton said. Once the space gets to a certain temperature, the sprinklers turn off, and cattle are cooler.