Kansas State University livestock specialists say that animals experience heat stress during summer's dog days, just like humans. Heat stress decreases animal performance and can result in death if serious enough, says Clifford Spaeth, with Kansas State Research and Extension.

As long as it's hot outside, animals will experience some amount of stress and their performance will decline, says John Smith, Kansas State researcher. You can't eliminate heat stress, but there are ways to reduce the impact so that animals stay healthy and maintain performance.

Water is the most important factor when it comes to animal production. It is not only important that animals have plenty of water during the summer, but that it is clean.

Shade and air movement are other necessary factors, says Scott Beyer, Kansas State Extension specialist. "Keep the air moving as much as possible." That means keeping ventilation fans working and at an effective speed.

Low pressure misters are another option available to cool animals that are housed inside of buildings.

Signs of heat stress include a decline in growth performance in market animals and a decline in milk production in dairy cattle. Other signs of stressed animals are heavy breathing, increased water intake, decreased feed intake and poor reproductive performance, Smith says.

While plenty of water, shade and ventilation are needed to keep heat stress at a minimum for any species. For hogs, intermittent sprinkler systems are an efficient cooling option since they cannot sweat. The process of wetting the skin and allowing it to dry before wetting it again works better than a continuous mist, says Dave Nichols, animal science professor. 

Kansas State University