Keeping Livestock Alive In The Heat - WSET.com - ABC13

Keeping Livestock Alive in the Heat

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Amherst, VA - Strong heat can be dangerous to crops and livestock as well. When the mercury rises to the mid '90s, so do farmers' concerns.

Last summer, as many as 1,000 cattle died in just one week. Even though this heat wave won't be nearly as oppressive, farmers should take some important precautions to keep their animals safe.

Just like supply and demand drives their prices, farmers have to let nature run its course.

"We can't do anything about it. You can worry and look at numbers all you want but it's still gonna be whatever that thermometer says it is," said George Craig, a cattle producer.

With another heat wave gripping Central Virginia, he makes sure his cattle have plenty of shade, fresh water, and supplements to keep them hydrated.

"You have a lot of salt and mineral feed for them cause they will lose fluid so much in this real hot weather," Craig explained.

The Amherst Extension Agent says if livestock are losing weight, farmers are losing production.

"Not only are you concerned about your animal but you're concerned about your bottom line," said Billy Hughes.

Thousands of cattle, sheep and goats die each year because of high temperatures. Once temperatures reach the mid to high 90s, crops and livestock have a hard time cooling off.

"It leads to decreased feed intakes, loss of weight, decrease in milk production,"explained Hughes.

While counties south of Amherst have already been struggling with dry and oppressive heat, George Craig isn't worried he'll lose any cattle.

"They know where to go. The earlier they go to the creek to get cool, the sooner it's gonna get hot," Craig added.

Surviving the hot temperatures is just like farming: learning to rely on instinct.

"It isn't kind of a gamble. It is a gamble," Craig said.

Another important note for farmers -- make sure to check the temperature of the water you leave out.  And, taller grass tends to have a cooler surface.

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