It’s hot, humid and over all icky to be outside in Georgia right now. I’m pretty sure it’s the same everywhere, but I feel like Georgia slowed down to pass the state trooper and decided to “open ‘er up” once it was clear. It went from comfortable mid to upper 70’s to devil’s armpit in less than 24 hours. Not to mention we came back from Yellowstone where it was a balmy 40*! We were a little climate shocked to say the lest. Oh, and our AC doesn’t work, so we are having to use fans and window units. But what do you do with the animals that can’t come inside? How do you keep your livestock cool in the summer? Check out my 5 tips below.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
5 Tips to Keep Your Animals Cool In Summer
- Clean Water- Every single day, multiple times a day, you need to be out there checking to make sure that they have plenty of cool water. Depending on your watering system this may just be a couple buckets in the shade. Or maybe a water trough that has a frozen gallon milk jug in it. Regardless, it needs to be clean and fresh every single day. We have these 5 gallon buckets for our goats and we have four of them throughout the pastures and fill them on average 3x a day. On the super hot or humid days we will fill the buckets part of the way with ice to help keep the water cool. We are also planning on getting a 50 gal stock tank once the current kids are a little bigger.
- Shade– It is so important for any animal or human to have access to shade when they are outside. Nothing will dehydrate an animal (including humans) quicker than being stuck in the hot sun with no shade. If you don’t have access to shade for your animals, or their shelter is in the sun, you can grab a couple of shade canopies for less than $40 depending on the sizes you choose. We are lucky enough that all three pastures have a ton of shade so we don’t need the canopy but I would definitely look into it if you don’t.
- Electrolytes– All animals require electrolytes, but in the summer it is especially important to have more on hand. We buy these, but have also bought Bounce Back, and Electrolytes Plus. Remember that not all electrolytes are equal. I use Bounce Back as my standard and as long as the other brands are close, I’ll buy it in a pinch. I will say, right now Bounce Back is expensive on Amazon but pretty affordable at Tractor Supply. Also, as a side note, Electrolyte Plus WILL FIZZ! You have been warned. I still have orange goat-r-aid on my ceiling. We usually will put a 5 gallon bucket out of electrolytes and then another with regular water. As we refill buckets throughout the day, we don’t add anymore electrolytes and let it get watered down. The next day we dump and refill
- Keep their coat clean– Much like with dogs, if their coat is matted, clumped, or dirty, they will have a hard time staying cool. The breeze, if there is one, can not get through to their skin. That will trap heat and cause them to get or stay hot. We brush out their winter coats, if they haven’t already blown them, when the weather maintains 70*. We also give their hooves a good trimming as well. This is also the time that they get any meds, copper bolus’, and vaccines.
- Air Flow– We all know that when it gets hot, we just want a breeze to blow through to cool us off. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of wind or air movement, consider getting a solar powered fan. You can pick the size that you need but the end result is the same, get the air moving. If you’ve got electricity in your barn, then get a bigger fan. Your goats will thank you.
- Bonus tip- Cold Treats!– We freeze fruit and veggies in muffin tins with water. This gives them a cold treat on hot days. We have also frozen whole watermelons, cantaloupes, etc.
But what if they get too hot?
Much like dogs, goats will pant when they get too hot. Unlike dogs, however, this is kind of a last ditch effort in cooling themselves down. If they are panting, you need to start working to get them cooled down, right now.
What are some signs and symptoms of a hot goat? Panting or labored breathing, poor FAMACHA, lethargic, high temperature, etc.
In the post about what to have on hand for goats, you need to first get a rectal temperature. Their temps should be between 101-102ish. A little higher or lower is not a big deal but more than a degree in either direction needs to be monitored. More than 2 degrees and you need to start warming or cooling.
Then check their FAMACHA. The card below will show you how to do it and what the color is. The FAMACHA tells you if they are anemic or not. If they are anemic, they do not have the blood volume necessary to handle stress well. If they can’t handle stress, like a heat emergency, they are less likely to bounce back. There is MUCH more to a FAMACHA than this, but for the sake of this post, a score under 3 is going to require a lot more care to get them healthy.
Next, get bottoms of their legs in some cool (not cold) water. We don’t want to shock their system but we need to get them cooling down quickly. But do not lay them down in the water. The problem is that their fur will act like a wet blanket and keep all that heat inside. Instead, only put cool water on “bare” skin like the utters, belly, or behind their knees. All areas were their coat should be thinner.
I bring cold, hot, or otherwise sick goats in the house. My house is relatively comfortable, despite the lack of an HVAC system. This will passively cool them. You can also put them in your bath tub to ensure they are getting cool water in a place that is designed to get wet.
Also, try to get some cold water into them, if they won’t drink it then you need to drench them. Recheck their temperature every five minutes or so to make sure they are cooling down. We don’t want that temperature to go too low because then we have to start warming them back up.
Keep at it until their temperature comes down. And it should come down. Hot things will generally cool off when cold things are put on them. The most important thing is to move with a purpose but without shocking the goat.
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