Harsh Alaska winters aren’t the only time of year to worry about the well-being of our animals. Keeping livestock healthy in summer is also a concern. But paying attention to important details will have them enjoying the beautiful weather right along with you.
Alaska might not be known for being a tropical paradise but it does get pretty hot during the summer months. At least to those of us who are used to below-zero temperatures! For us, being in the high 70’s can be uncomfortably warm.
Alaskan summers are gorgeous, with wildflowers in bloom and a bright, blue sky above. We love this time of year. We also appreciate this wonderful weather after a long, cold winter. But, because we are so used to frigid temperatures, the heat can get to us easily.
This can also be true for our animals, who are used to the cooler temperatures as well. It is important to make sure that they are comfortable and healthy during the summer months, even though it might not seem that hot. Here are some of the most important ways that we can keep our livestock healthy in summer.
The absolute, most important need that all animals have during warmer weather is definitely water. Neglecting this can be seriously detrimental to the health and well-being of livestock. This might sound obvious but you would be surprised at how quickly animals can go through water. Just having a small container and filling it once a day won’t cut it.
All animals must have access to fresh water all day and night. We top off every water container each morning and night when we do our regular barn chores and milkings. The cows have a 75-gallon trough that we constantly add more water to so they never run out.
We also provide extra sources of water during the summer months. The waterfowl have two small pools so there’s plenty of water for all of them and no one goes thirsty. These also need to be cleaned out and refilled often since they bathe in them every day as well. The water gets dirty quickly!
Bees are very good at locating sources of water and bringing it back to the hives. After rainfall, they will collect water from droplets on surfaces around our property. However, when there’s no rain for several days, they need another source. We keep serval small bee waterers near the hives and make sure they’re full every day. They have tiny holes along the inside that the bees use as a ladder to get down to the water, gather what they need, and climb out.
Water is so important all year, but especially during the warmer months. It can easily get overlooked when you’re in a routine all winter until you realize that the animals are going through much more water now. You don’t want to find an empty waterer and parched animals.
Heat is even worse when you are in direct sunlight with no where to cool down. Providing some sort of shade for our animals is important for their health and we know they appreciate it.
We are fortunate to have a barn on our property that our animals can access to find relief from the elements. Whether it’s a rainy day or the sun is beating down, they all are able to go into the barn whenever they like.
The waterfowl spend most of their time outside but often in the afternoons, when it’s especially hot, they make their way into the barn and take their afternoon naps in the cool shade. The chickens can do the same as they please.
The cows also have a door going into their large stall in the barn. Usually, the cows love sunbathing outside most of the day but sometimes on a really hot afternoon, they go and lay in their stall to get out of the heat of the sun.
The bees, of course, can go into their hives as needed and have the amazing ability to regulate the internal temperature of their hives. We also have our colonies in a location with some shade so the sun isn’t constantly on them.
Even without a permanent structure, there are other ways to provide shade for your animals. Pallets can be used a quickly construct a small, roofed alcove for chickens and waterfowl to lay under for relief. For larger animals, tent structures can be assembled. If your property has many trees that provide shade, you’re all set, as long as the animals can access that portion of your yard.
Just like us, all animals deserve to find relief from the heat of a summer day. Having the ability to lay in a cool, shady spot makes anyone feel better on a hot day.
Of course, making sure that all of the animals have proper nutrition is important throughout the entire year. It’s just important that this isn’t overlooked when the weather is so nice. After focusing on keeping our animals healthy all winter, it’s easy to think that summer will be no problem.
Just because the sun is shining and it’s toasty out doesn’t mean that health issues can’t arise. Animals still need proper nutrition to stay healthy in the heat. Also, nutritional needs can differ by season so it’s important to understand if the types of animals you keep need their feed or supplements adjusted each season.
For example, our poultry are able to be outside foraging during the summer months unlike during the winter. They don’t require as much feed and we switch them to a lower protein feed as well.
More Ways to Keep Livestock Healthy in Summer
- Be on the lookout for poisonous plants that might be in the area where your livestock spend their summer days.
- Chickens enjoy a cool summer treat that’s quick and easy to make! Place a handful of corn kernels in the bottoms of a muffin tin then fill the rest of the way with water. Freeze overnight then pop them out for a fun activity for your chickens.
- Some animals enjoy a refreshing spritz from the hose, like light rainfall.
- For animals that aren’t able to wander freely, bring the summer foliage to them! Our turkeys love chickweed but it doesn’t grow in the portion of our property where they live. We enjoy gathering armfuls of this edible plant and taking it to them to enjoy.
Always pay close attention to your animals during the hotter months to make sure they are managing the high temperatures. Keeping livestock healthy in summer is important and will allow you to enjoy them even more, and they will be able to enjoy the beautiful weather until winter makes its return.