‘Our animals depend on us’: WSU experts offer tips to keep your livestock, pets safe during extreme heat

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PULLMAN, Wash. — As the region braces for a dangerous heatwave, experts at Washington State University are giving farmers and livestock owners tips to keep animals safe.

“Our animals depend on us,” WSU associate professor and livestock extension specialist Don Llewellyn said. “Livestock owners, farmers, and youth raising animals for 4-H and similar projects should prepare for heat and dangerous conditions.”

While different livestock and pet species have specific needs, experts share general suggestions to keep animals safe, including:

  • Avoid stressful handling of livestock. If necessary, only do so in the early morning hours or late in the evening.
  • Ensure animals in barns or sheds have proper ventilation and air circulation.
  • Provide shade to animals kept outside, if possible.
  • Provide a continuous supply of cool, clean water.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration, such as lethargy, drying of the mucous membranes and eyes, or eyes that appear sunken and dull.
  • Reduce energy intake, such as from grains and concentrates, and increase fiber in the diets of animals such as 4-H steers and lambs.

According to extension experts, areas of irrigated farmland in Eastern Washington can experience higher humidity, which increases the risk of heat stress. During and following heat stress, livestock owners should watch for signs of respiratory disease and digestive disorders in animals.

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