Cattle that are out on pasture in the summer heat will need access to shade and potable water to stay cool. Consider grazing in the cooler times of the day only, if possible.

Cattle that are out on pasture in the summer heat need access to shade and potable water

Keeping Livestock (and their Farmers) Safe in Hot Weather

SOUTHWEST, NEW YORK (July 27th, 2023) – The days of high summer heat can be a nuisance for some and an extreme hazard for others. Planning ahead for shade, spots to cool off, and hydration is key for beating the heat. For farmers, days of high temperatures add even more logistical hurdles. It’s important to keep livestock, and those who care for them, safe from the summer heat. Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialists from the Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program share their tips for keeping things cool on the farm.

  • Provide animals with constant access to clean, potable water. This is crucial in helping animals manage their core body temperatures. If you can provide cool water, that’s even better. Ensure that there is enough trough space to allow multiple animals to drink at a time.
  • Provide shade, where possible. Shade has been shown to reduce heat loads by up to 30% in cattle. One method to achieve this is by letting grazing animals graze in the mornings and evenings, while bringing them into the barn during the hot parts of the day.
  • Work animals in the morning or evenings when it’s cooler. If animals have to be worked in the heat of the day, limit the time you spend with them. If animals will be grouped together in common areas for a long period of time, like holding pens, use sprinklers and fans to keep them cool.
  • Reduce fly loads on animals, particularly cattle. This will help to decrease bunching together that naturally occurs as animals attempt to swat flies. The use of fly deterrents, air movement, and cleaning high traffic areas will all help.
  • Feed more frequently. Feed spoils quicker this time of the year, and offering fresh feed more often will help. This will reduce spoilage and waste, particularly for fermented feeds, and increase their overall intake.
  • Don’t forget about the humans! Farmers and farm employees also need to take precautions during hot weather. This includes a lot of the same things we do to keep animals cool, too! Consider frequent breaks, avoiding outside work during the hottest hours of the day, staying hydrated, dressing in loose fitting clothing with UV protection, and recognize the symptoms of heat related illnesses.
  • Keep in mind that during heat waves, regardless of management, milk production and weight gains will trend downward due to more of the animals’ resources going to keeping their body cool. For poultry, egg production and quality will diminish. Breedings that occurs during heat waves are generally less successful than those during normal times. Productivity of employees should also decrease to allow for more time to stay cool and beat the heat.

    SWNYDLFC is a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben counties. Their team includes Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522); Camila Lage, Dairy Management (607-422-6788); Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844), and Katelyn Miller, Field Crops (716-640-2047). CCE is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.

    For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension, contact your county’s Association Executive Director. Allegany County – Laura Hunsberger, or 585-268-7644. Cattaraugus County – Jocelyn Sikorski, or 716-699-2377. Chautauqua County – Emily Reynolds, or 716-664-9502. Erie County – Diane Held, or 716-652-5400. Steuben County – Tess McKinley,, or 607-664-2301. 


    Katelyn Walley-Stoll
    Team Leader, Business Management Specialist

    Last updated July 27, 2023