Hot summer predicted, farmers urged to plan for animal welfare

Central Tablelands Local Land Services veterinarian, Jess Bourke said taking care of animal welfare during hot periods was extremely important. Photo: Amy McIntyre.
Central Tablelands Local Land Services veterinarian, Jess Bourke said taking care of animal welfare during hot periods was extremely important. Photo: Amy McIntyre.

The forecast of extreme hot weather starting next week and with summer fast approaching, farmers are being urged to plan for stock management and animal welfare.

From Monday, November 18, the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts temperatures to reach 30 degrees Celsius and above for many western NSW areas.

BoM also predicts ongoing dry weather and hotter than average temperatures for the remainder of 2019, including the possibility of extreme heat periods across New South Wales.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services veterinarian, Jess Bourke said taking care of animal welfare is extremely important.

"Livestock health also underpins profits, so it's wise to plan ahead and make decisions now about how to manage animals during extreme heat," Dr Bourke said.

During extreme heat animals must be supplied with ample high quality clean, fresh drinking water, particularly if they are confined in drought-lots and feedlots, Dr Bourke advised

"Surface water supplies such as dams and creeks can quickly become low and polluted, so farmers will be making plans now to provide alternative water sources, whether that means moving stock to different paddocks or setting up troughs connected to more reliable water," she explained.

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According to Dr Bourke, it's prudent to check water temperatures during periods of extreme heat and move or cover troughs if necessary.

Water sources such as troughs standing in direct sunlight, or where water pipes are sitting in the sun, can become very hot very quickly and livestock will avoid hot water.

Where livestock rely on pumps to deliver water to troughs, diligent maintenance and monitoring is necessary. Troughs and pumps should be checked daily so problems can be detected as soon as possible and fixed.

Unless you are around to continually check water containers, water should be provided through automatic or reticulated systems.

The number of watering points and the amount of water flow should be increased if a large number of animals are kept in the same yard or paddock and troughs need to be firmly fixed so they can't be tipped over.

Shade needs to be carefully planned as poor design can exacerbate the problem. Shade structures should be at least four-five metres high, on a north-south orientation, and must be large enough to provide sufficient shade for each animal without overcrowding.

Dr Bourke warns handling should be postponed to avoid working in extreme heat.

"If a job is unavoidable, do it early in the morning when temperatures are cooler," she said.

Signs of heat stress include continual panting, rapid or open mouth breathing, weakness, inability to stand, and an elevated rectal temperature.

If livestock are suffering from heat stress, they should be moved quietly to a cool shaded area and offered cool clean water.

Keeping an eye on weather forecasts, and having a plan ready to ensure sufficient shade and a plentiful supply of cool, clean water will help prevent death and deterioration in valuable stock.

For more information about shade, water, and managing heat stress contact Dr Jess Bourke on 02 6378 1700 or search for Drought Hub at: dpi.nsw.gov.au

This story Farmers urged to be vigilant with livestock during warmer months first appeared on Western Magazine.