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Hot Weather at Fairs Require Increased Monitoring and Care of Animals

With Wisconsin experiencing extreme heat this week, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) reminds all fair exhibitors to increase surveillance and care for livestock.

"Do all that you can to avoid them from getting hot to begin with!" says Dr. Rebecca Brotzman, WVMA member and associate outreach specialist for The Dairyland Initiative. "Transport your animals during the cooler parts of the day and once there, make sure animals have enough room to spread out with plenty of fans."

When animals experience heat stress, they have to exert additional energy to cool themselves. They do this by increasing respiratory rates and standing instead of resting. This leads to a decreased appetite, resulting in weight loss, muscle loss and decreased milk production.

Like humans, horses and other animals with sweat glands need to drink more water when it is hot because of increased water loss to sweating. Cattle, pigs and many other livestock species do not sweat like humans and horses. Instead, they need to drink more water because of panting. Finished meat animals are at higher risks for heat stress because of their heavier weight. In all species, death can occur if severe heat stress is not addressed, she says.

"Another way to combat heat stress is by knowing the normal body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate for the species you are exhibiting." says Dr. Brotzman. "Knowing how to monitor these in your animals is important for detecting heat stress and other disorders and will help you keep your animals healthy all year."

Normal ranges for rectal temperature and resting heart and respiratory rates are:

Cattle
• Temperature 100.4-103.1 degrees Fahrenheit
• Heart rate 48-84 beats per minute
• Respiratory rate 26-52 per minute

Horses
• Temperature 99.1-100.8 degrees Fahrenheit
• Heart rate 28-48 beats per minute
• Respiratory rate 10-14 per minute

Sheep and Goats
• Temperature 101-103.5 degrees Fahrenheit
• Heart rate 70-80 beats per minute
• Respiratory rate 16-34 breaths per minute

Hogs
• Temperature 101.6-103.6
• Heart rate 70-120 beats per minute
• Respiratory rate 32-58 breathes per minute

There are also ways to tell if an animal is heat stressed without using a thermometer. If the animal is breathing very fast, panting with the mouth open, excessively salivating, or is weak, lethargic or even trembling immediate action needs to be taken. Once you have provided immediate care for your animal, Dr. Brotzman recommends having the on-call veterinarian examine it to ensure everything necessary is being done to ensure its safety.

There are numerous ways to cool your animals down during the summer.

• Make sure all possible windows, doors and sidewall openings are open
• Have fans running to keep air moving and position fans to blow on your animals
• Provide shade
• Rinse cattle, horses and swine multiple times during the day
• When appropriate, use a sprinkler system intermittently to soak animals with large drops of water without raising the humidity
• For sheep, use rubbing alcohol on wool-less areas like the flank and between the hind legs
• Run cool water down the backs and heads of goats
• Allow animals to dry off underneath fans to evaporate heat from their bodies

"Keep in mind that livestock feel the effects of the heat well before we do, so make sure to provide heat abatement even on a 'mild' Wisconsin summer day," continues Dr. Brotzman.

Stay cool and good luck this fair season!

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