One of the many things I love about the farm and homestead community is how helpful, and inspiring animal owners are. Some of my favorite homesteaders are sharing how to keep your animals cool in the summer, and I wanted to share some of our tips and tricks at Baghdad to Barnyard. It’s July, and we’re entering the dog days of summer in Southwest Virginia. The days are long, hot, and muggy, and I’m usually sweating buckets by 9 am. We do our best to keep the animals cool in the summer and comfortable by changing feeding schedules, staying vigilant with manure management, and learning to recognize the signs of heat stress and overheating.
Here are eleven ways to keep your animals cool in the summer:
After renovating our barn, we installed outdoor ceiling fans and high-velocity fans in each stall. It keeps the animals cool and helps keep flies out of the stalls. Make sure you regularly clean your fans and check any wires for damage. Our barn is close to a gravel road, so the fans get caked with dust from pine shavings and dirt. I clean all our fans weekly using a ceiling fan duster and cobweb duster. We also installed smoke detectors and cameras in our barn as an extra layer of precaution. At the end of fall, we take down all the fans, give them a good cleaning, and complete any repairs before putting them up for the winter. You can check out my Amazon store for the fans we use in each stall, the ceiling fan duster I recommend, and other Amazon Must-Haves.
#2 Access to clean, fresh water at all times
Us humans must stay hydrated, especially in the summertime, and our pets are no different. Your pets should have access to fresh, clean water at ALL times. We dump all water troughs twice daily in the summertime, especially when our creek runs dry. If you have a 100gallon water trough, that’s not feasible, but keeping the troughs clean and topped off will help keep your animals hydrated and refreshed. I like to add a 5-gal bucket of Gatorade, too, especially if I notice some of our animals aren’t drinking enough water. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule will keep water fresh and clean and keep your animals drinking.
To keep smaller animals cool in the summer, you can add ice cubes to their water dishes, provide frozen treats or toys, and use cooling mats; if you’re out and about with your pet, bring a portable, collapsible water bowl or a squirt bottle for your furry friend(s). Give them small amounts of water every 15 to 20 minutes during physical activity.
#3 Manure management plan and fly control
My least favorite part about summer is the FLIES!!!! I think flies irritate me more than they annoy the animals. We use several techniques to keep the fly population down and keep the animals cool and comfortable in the summer. You must set up a manure management plan for your farm or homestead to help with fly control. Horses generate large amounts of manure that quickly accumulate on your property. Did you know about 12 tons of soiled bedding and waste will be removed from a horse’s stall each year? That’s a lot of potential breeding space for flies!
The following are some manure management tips:
Muck stalls daily at a minimum.
Make sure stalls have good drainage to allow for complete manure removal.
Place manure piles as far away from the barn as possible.
Pastures should be picked or drug with a chain harrow regularly.
We started using fly predators two years ago- a total game-changer! It’s essential to release fly predators before the fly season starts because the predators feed on fly larvae and prevent larvae from developing into biting adult flies. Fly predators don’t bite or pose a threat to humans or animals, so they are safe to use on the farm. We also use reusable fly traps, alternate fly sprays, and SWAT ointment.
#4 Keep barns and coops clean
Now that you have thought about a manure management plan, it’s time to focus on overall barn cleanliness. Concerning fly control management, cleanliness and sanitation are another key to obtaining success.
Fly breeding sites aren’t just found in the horse’s manure piles and dirty shavings. The major fly breeding areas in barns can be found around spilled feed, open feed bins, wet areas around animal waterers, contaminated water or feed buckets, open trash cans, stagnant water areas, and anywhere the ground has become moist.
Keep it clean by:
Cleaning your feed room daily.
Covering feed bins. Don’t leave bags open; this helps reduce spillage and keeps flies out of the barn.
Eliminating stagnant pools of water by fixing drainage around your property.
Dumping and scrubbing feed and water buckets regularly.
Keeping your trash in sealed garbage cans. If possible, keep them as far away from your barn as possible.
#5 Smaller meal portions
A technique I started two summers ago to help keep our animals cooler in the summer is feeding smaller meal portions throughout the day. We still go through the same amount of food daily; we just changed from providing them twice a day to three times per day. Not only does it help to keep the animals indoors during the hottest part of the day, but it has also increased our animal’s water intake, which is especially important in the summer months.
Plant more shrubs and trees for shade so livestock can take a break from the heat. Our creek banks are loaded with lots of shade trees and shrubbery. We have a ton of azalea bushes, cherry trees, apple trees, redbud, magnolia, elm, black walnut, and Mexican grass. Did you know a forested area for your animals can be much cooler than a barn with a hot tin roof and limited ventilation? Even if you lack the shade of large trees, you can use an open-sided shade structure in your pastures. Here are some chicken-safe shrubs and trees to consider adding to your farm: butterfly bush, dogwood, fig, gardenia, juniper, lilac redbud, crab apple, elm, eucalyptus, and magnolia.
#7 Frozen Treats
I’ve seen so many creative frozen treat options and combinations on Instagram. You can put together: peas and mint, blueberries and basil, apple and watermelon chunks, pop them in an ice cube tray or popsicle molds and watch your happy flock devour them. Our backyard flock enjoys frozen banana slices with mixed berries to keep them cool in the summer. Not only is it entertaining to watch, but it helps to prevent dehydration and heat stress. You can chill your livestock’s daily grain ration to cool them off before feeding. Be careful with sugar and insulin-resistant animals and substitute foods containing high sugar with celery, hay cubes, apple peels, watermelon rinds, and iceberg lettuce.
#8 Dirt Baths
Chickens bathe in dust to keep external parasites and to help keep cool in the summer. In an extended number of days with no rain, even the lower layers of dirt will be dry and dusty. Before letting your flock out, gently water their dust bath area so it will be calm and damp later. Alternatively, you can make a temporary dust bath in a shady spot for them.
Heat stress is hard on livestock, especially on days with high humidity and low winds. You must learn how to recognize the signs of overheating in animals and know when to intervene. Some general heat stress signs include:
increased respiration rate
increased water intake
loss of appetite
in severe cases: unconscious
If your animals are showing signs of heat stress, the following actions can be taken to cool animals down in the summer:
Move them to the shade immediately, preferably somewhere with a breeze. If animals are too stressed to move, pick them up and move them or provide shade where they are.
Offer plenty of cool, clean water but encourage them to drink small amounts often.
Spray them with cool water in the summer, especially on the legs and feet, or stand them in water. Use sprinklers or hoses for cattle, pigs, and horses. Lay wet towels over them. Dogs and cats can be placed in buckets/troughs of cool water. Poultry should not be wet down unless there is a breeze to aid the cooling process.
Increase air movement around them. This can be done with fans, ventilation, or wind movement.
If the animal shows no improvement, please contact your local veterinarian for assistance.
Stringing up a handful of misters around the outdoor runs, breezeways in your barn, or at the entrance and exit locations can lower air temperatures by 15 to 20 degrees in the right conditions. Misters cool the air by evaporative cooling. As the fine mist shoots out from the misters, some of it evaporates. Since this transformation requires heat, the molecules pull the heat they need from the air around them, leaving the air cooler. Hang the misters high in the air, which mostly evaporates before hitting the ground in your coops or barns. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a wet, soggy mess.
We installed misters in the breezeway of our barn and on the overhang of our mini barn. They have made an enormous difference on hot summer days, don’t cost a lot, and are super easy to install.
#11 Mineral + Salt blocks
Like people, animals need salt and other minerals to stay hydrated and keep their bodies functioning. You can buy salt blocks and mineral blocks from your local feed and hardware stores and put them in the pasture or each feed bucket. Giving them free access to both is the best option because they can use them as their bodies crave them. We have a 50lb mineral block and Himalayan salt blocks in each stall for our donkeys and horses. The goats get loose minerals, baking soda, and a Himalayan salt block. I will link the products we use on our farm down below.
Remember, humans have the blessing of air conditioning, but our livestock does not. It’s up to us to take measures to keep our animals cool as the temps climb higher with the sun each day. I hope you enjoyed this post featuring ten ways to keep your livestock cool in the summer. Please let me know how you help prevent heat stress in your livestock and pets in the comments.