Farming 101Instructional MaterialLivestock ProductionvaMudhumeni

TAKING CARE OF ANIMALS DURING EXTREME HEAT

By Albert Makendenge

There has been, in recent weeks, a wave of highly unbearable temperatures across the country which has not only unsettled human beings but animals and crops as well. Agricultural animals, in particular, are at risk of experiencing adverse reactions to the extreme heat and below are some measures to ensure that the animals are kept safe and healthy.

  • Provision of enough shade and water

Every animal needs shade and water. Adequate protection from the heat and sun as well as plenty of fresh and clean water should be provided. An animal should never be tied up where it cannot access shade and water. If resources allow the drinking water should also be kept shaded. All animals should be checked frequently, as should their water sources. Adequate shade will mitigate the chances of rapid dehydration and heat related illnesses and enough clean water will ensure that all metabolic processes in the animal’s body are at their optimal best.

  • Knowing and recognizing the signs of heatstroke

Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of co-ordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue and unconsciousness. In the case of a heatstroke, the animal should, as soon as possible, be – moved to the shade/air conditioned area, given icepacks for the head, neck and chest (or be splashed with cold water), given small amounts of cold water to drink and in worst case scenarios be rushed immediately and directly to a veterinarian.

  • Handling and movement of animals.

It is recommended not to handle animals in extreme heat unless absolutely necessary. If necessary, make sure that it is done as early or late in the day as possible when temperatures are lower. Research has shown that movement or handling of animals during hot weather can increase their body temperature or heat stress which will cause significant production losses in livestock and also impact on their ability to maintain normal function. On the other hand, moving animals during cooler hours of the day can decrease the impact of high temperatures on production performance. 

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