Livestock owners work to keep animals cool in extreme heat

DONIPHAN, Neb. (KSNB) - Some livestock owners are already a few steps ahead of this heat wave to make sure their animals make it through this hot weather.

Robb Feed Yards has shade over their pens to keep cattle cool and prevent them from overheating in this extreme heat. (Souce: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

Greg Robb, owner and operator of Robb Feed Yards, said this is the worst year of cattle feeding he can remember. First it was the rain and flooding, and now it's the heat. That's the focus of this week.

Robb has about 8,500 head. He puts up shade for the cattle to stand under. He also puts in extra water tanks so the cattle don't surround around just one.

"We look for animals that might be in stress, and if we have to get them out," Robb said. "We're not doing any processing or handling of cattle unless absolutely necessary in this kind of weather. Even if it's cool in the morning and you get them heated up, they will not cool down. They'll have problems all day."

Since cattle's bodies actually heat up as they process food, Robb cuts back on feed. He'll feed them about a third in the morning, and then two-thirds at night when the temperature goes down.

He also gives them a heat supplement that helps their metabolism in this kind of weather.

"We're willing to give up performance to keep the cattle as comfortable as we can, and alive. You can't recover from a death, but performance you can get some of it back," Robb said.

Over at the Adams County Fairgrounds, 4-H competitors are having similar issues.

Mikeayla Samuelson shows swine. She won champion Wednesday in one of the categories. Samuelson will also show beef later in the week.

She said her steer is use to much colder temperatures, so the extreme heat can be uncomfortable for him. Samuelson takes extra measures to make sure he's cool and doesn't overheat.

"We put a bag of ice on top of the fan so it'll melt and go onto them. We also have misters that run through this that we have ice and water in," Samuelson said.

There's more fans than usual throughout the fairgrounds to keep all the livestock cool. More water tanks are also set up to keep animals hydrated.

Sheep are wearing cooling blankets to prevent overheating. Pigs are sprayed with water and cattle are washed down more often.

"Watching for panting is important," said Beth Janning, a 4-H youth development extension educator. "Pigs can't sweat. They can only pant. So making sure that that's taken care of. Our other animals are able to sweat, but watching how much they sweat. Being able to watch those signs, because ultimately it is death, which we do not want to have."

Extension educators recommend cutting cattle's feed by 25 to 50 percent to stop overheating while digesting. One of the best things you can do is keep your animals hydrated.