Most of the nation is feeling the effects of a heat wave as the temperatures soar, and the heat index goes even higher due in part to the high humidity. Yesterday the actual temperature here was 108 degrees. I have no idea what the heat index was, but the word hot does not begin to describe it.
As people try to find relief in air conditioning, the shade, or in a swimming pool, ranchers cannot overlook the effects of the heat on their animals. Cattle, horses, and other livestock are suffering in the heat also. Their needs are not unlike our own. They need to stay hydrated and they need a cool place to spend the day.
At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we make sure that the cattle have plenty of fresh water to drink. Cows usually drink twice a day. The amount consumed is staggering. On a typical day, each cow can drink between 25 and 30 gallons. During excessively hot days, the amount increases to 35-50 gallons. Depending on how many head of cattle you have, you have to make sure that you provide sufficient water for your herd.
Cows will stay in shady places when it gets really hot. Make sure that your cattle are on a wooded pasture with plenty of shade. You do not want them baking in the sun. If you only have cleared pastures, provide shade with a covered structure, tarp, or something else.
Believe it or not, cows love to wade out into a lake or pond up to their bellies. It is their version of pool fun. Cows can swim, but usually only when they have to. Horses seem more playful in water. They will swim regardless if they have to or not. Even wading into shallow water, they will splash with their front hooves. Having a lake or pond for your livestock to use as a swimming pool is not necessary, but it is also a good way to insure that they have enough to drink throughout the day.
As we all try to survive this exceptional drought coupled with extreme heat and humidity, consider the needs of the animals, too. From livestock to family pets, animals are also looking for ways to stay hydrated and cool.