Livestock Handling For Summer

August 17, 2022

The heat of summer can be tricky when handling livestock, and it just so happens to be the time of year when most animals are moved from one place to another.

Whether it’s to go to market, for vaccinations, medical treatment, or simply to be moved from one pasture to another, livestock have places to go…even when it’s hot.

And the hotter it is, the more important it is to keep livestock cool and calm. Whether it’s a cow, sheep, or goat, they’ll need to be moved in a stress-free manner to avoid illness or even death.


The Importance of Keeping things Chill When
Handling Livestock During Summer

Most livestock are social animals, and they thrive when they’re around other members of their herd. However, when they’re handled by humans, and the threat of being separated from the herd becomes all too real, they may become stressed.

And stress can equate to illness or injury.

Goats, for example, can experience parasite blooms when stressed. So, when it’s already hot out, added pressure can lead animals to become deathly ill in a very short amount of time.

Livestock with stress sensitivity can also lead to several problems, including reduced milk production, poor appetite, and even death, for example.

This is why it’s important to keep your livestock stress-free, as much as possible.

While handling livestock on a hot day is often unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to help keep them cool and calm.

Signs Your Livestock are overheating or
Stressed During Handling

Before handling your animals, familiarize yourself with the signs of heat stress, such as excessive panting, rapid heartbeat, drooling, a lack of coordination, and lethargy.

If you see these signs, it’s time to get your animals to a shaded area to let them rest.

Keep in mind that, if you’re feeling hot, the animals are probably feeling even hotter due to the stress of the situation they’ve found themselves in.

The Best Time to Handle Your Livestock During Summer

There are times when handling your animals is riskier than others, such as during pregnancy or when they’re already ill. It’s important to be aware of these sensitive situations and to handle them with care if they must be handled.

While the best time of day to handle your herd is up for debate, it’s generally better to handle animals early in the morning or late at night. This is the time of day that they’re likely to be calm and relaxed.

And, it’s the time of day when the sun is not at its hottest. 

Avoid Overhandling Your Livestock

To keep your livestock relaxed and comfortable, avoid handling them too much, as this can also be stressful for them.

One way to create a calm transition, from one place to another, is to use systems that prevent direct handling, separation, or excessive chasing.

Well-made livestock handling equipment can save lives and prevent stress for humans too. This is because animals aren’t chased as much, they’re handled very little, and handlers are much more, well, hands-off.

But, when we do have to make contact, it’s important to approach animals slowly and quietly, without making any sudden movements.

If an animal appears to be agitated or restless, it’s best to leave it alone until it has calmed down.

Ensure Animals are Well-Fed and Watered Before Handling

The most important thing to remember is that animals need plenty of water. It’s always imperative to have a water source for livestock, but in the summer it’s especially important if you’re handling them.

Whenever possible, offer water to your animals while handling them to keep them cool and calm.

If you’re not using feed as a motivator, you can offer their favorites before being handled to ensure the animals are less panicky (i.e. looking for food).

Take Breaks and Allow Resting Periods


While handling, take frequent breaks and allow the animals to rest in a cool, shady area. This is especially important if you notice signs of heat stress.

It’s good for both you and the livestock to take frequent breaks when handling during the summer.


Sturdy Gates and Fences

When it’s hot out, you’ll need to be extra careful with your livestock. And practical handling equipment and gates make it so much easier! Especially with flighty animals.

Also, make sure you have sturdy fences to keep the animals from escaping and getting lost or hurt if they decide to act impulsively. Animals can become injured while attempting to break through a flimsy gate.

Prepare for Pests and Keep Things Clean

Insects are a nuisance for animals and handlers during handling.

Often, livestock will become more stressed if pests are buzzing about or biting them. This can cause chaos in an unplanned situation.

Pests can also transmit diseases from one animal to another or from one species to another. So, take steps to control insects in the area before you begin working with your livestock.

Check Your Equipment

Before working with your animals, ensure your equipment is in good working order, well-ventilated, and that your gates and chutes are properly secured. Consider using fans or misters to keep animals cool and try your best to do most of the work in a shaded area.

If you don’t have shade nearby, you can create it with tarps, tents, or cloth.

Have a Plan Before You Begin

Livestock handling is a crucial aspect of farm management and animal welfare. Proper handling of livestock helps to ensure the safety of both the animals and the workers, while also reducing stress on the animals.

If you plan ahead, you can avoid causing stress for the animals and make sure they’re kept cool, comfortable, and healthy during the summer months.

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