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Last week, the county definitely got a taste of the summer heat. Accord-ing to our local Kentucky Mesonet system, actual air temperatures reached 90 degrees Fahren-heit or above, for five out of seven days.
This week’s change in the weather is providing a reprieve from the summer heat, but we should always be prepared to deal with higher temperatures around the farm and home.
In addition to our own struggles with the heat, we need to think about our livestock and pets because they feel that heat too. Keep in mind that these animals can also be in danger when temperatures are high, and it is important to know what to do to reduce their plight.
For livestock, the University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center provides warnings of potential weather-related danger. Livestock become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees. The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity and is used to describe how it feels outside.
The Agricultural Weather Center regularly monitors heat indices across the state and provides an index of its own—the Livestock Heat Stress Index—to help producers know when heat stress could create a problem for their animals.
The county-by-county index indicates three levels of heat stress: no stress, danger stress and emergency stress.
Periods of heat stress call for livestock producers to be vigilant in making sure their animals are adequately prepared.
One of the most important things producers can do is provide cool, clean drinking water.
Providing an adequate source of drinking water helps to keep animals’ internal body temperatures within normal limits. Above-ground water lines need to be shaded so they do not act as solar water heaters and make the water too hot to drink.
It is also important for animals to have shade, and for buildings to be as open as possible for adequate ventilation. Sprinkler systems that periodically spray a cool mist on the animals can also be beneficial.
It is best to avoid working animals during periods of heat stress.
Producers should also avoid transporting livestock during high levels of heat stress. When livestock must be transported, haul fewer animals per load. Planning trips so the animals can be loaded immediately before leaving and unloaded quickly upon arrival can likewise help minimize the risk.
Producers who want to keep up-to-date with the Livestock Heat Stress Index can access it by typing in your zip code in the left column on the Agricultural Weather Center’s website at weather.uky.edu.
The same Livestock Heat Stress Index can be used for people with pets at home. Cool, clean drinking water and shade are also key necessities to provide to your pets in periods of high summer heat.
For more information on how to help your animals beat the summer heat, contact your Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service.
Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.