Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – As the mercury in the thermometer soars into the mid-to-high 30s (Celsius) this week it’s important to keep a sharp eye on your livestock for heat stress.

Dr. Melissa Moggy is the Extension Coordinator with Alberta Farm Animal Care.

She says there are a few symptoms you should watch for including the animals breathing faster.

“We call this an increased respiratory rate and so that might just be that their sides are moving faster or you might actually see that their mouth is open and they’re open mouth breathing,” Moggy said.

She says they often see that in birds, as they will open their mouths and their whole body will be moving as they try to expel the hot air and cool down.

Moggy adds you may see that the animals don’t want to eat or drink.

“They’re just so hot and so stressed that the act of actually doing that is too much and so that is one of the reasons why we ask people in a heatwave to feed your animals at dusk and dawn because those are the coolest parts of the day.”

The act of eating and digesting the food will generate heat and so you don’t want to be getting the animals even hotter during a short period of time.

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Moggy says you should make sure they have access to water and a good source of shade.

“This can be in the form of a man-built shelter, or it can be something natural, like a tree line.”

She says it is imperative that all of the animals be able to access the shade. If there is only a sparse tree line and there is a lot of livestock it’s not going to give them enough shade.

Sick and older animals need to be watched very closely and kept closer to home because if they get heat stress they are more likely to go downhill faster.

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She says if you plan to move your livestock this week, consider putting it off, however, if it is unavoidable make sure you have a plan ahead of time.

“If your vehicle is starting to break down if you can get it in the shade, do so, get underneath the bridge if you can, or move it so that a crosswind is actually going through and giving the animals some relief from the heat.”

If you have some friends in the area contact them and ask to unload the animals so they can have a break and get some food and water.

Moggy says the most important tool you can have is the ALERT line phone number (1-800-506-2273) which farmers can use to get emergency help or get information on livestock care.