Heat stress in animals

01 June 2023
3 minutes

Summer is here again! Sun, sea, sand and lots of ice cream. But not everyone enjoys the hot weather...especially animals on the farm. Read on to find out why.

Shorts and T-shirt

When it’s warm outside, you might put on shorts and a T-shirt, so you don’t get too hot when playing tag. But animals don’t have clothes to choose from, as you already know. They have a coat, feathers or a thick skin to make sure they don’t get cold. At the end of summer, they begin to grow a thick winter coat, which helps protect them against the freezing cold. And when spring comes, they moult. This means a lot of their hair falls off so they get a thinner summer coat. That way, they can deal with the heat a lot better.

Did you know that moulting means animals lose much of their hair or feathers and grow new hair and feathers?

Getting goosebumps

Because you don’t have a fur coat or feathers, you might get goosebumps on a cold day. You know, those little bumps on your arms or legs. This is because the hairs on your arms and legs stand up straight to keep your body heat in. When you’re hot, you sweat to get rid of the heat. Sweat evaporates and cools your skin, just like you cool down when a water balloon bursts on you. Chickens, pigs and cows can’t do this, but they do have another way.

Heat stress in animals

Chickens can’t sweat, so they try to get rid of the heat by breathing faster, just like dogs do. Pigs also suffer in the heat. Farmers help the animals by properly ventilating the barn and providing them with plenty of clean drinking water and fresh food.

For cows, even 21ºC is too hot. In the summer, it can often get even warmer than that. That’s when heat stress can happen. The word ‘stress’ doesn’t sound good, and that’s because it isn’t. When cows get too hot, they eat less and don’t get enough nutrients. They produce less milk and their health starts to get worse. All a cow can do is try to stay calm. But fortunately, there is something the farmers can do about it. They keep the cows inside the barn, out of the sun. Putting large fans in the stable creates a breeze and cools it down a bit. Farmers also make sure that their cows have enough clean water to drink and delicious nutritious food to eat.