by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate
Hot summer days are part of the routine for all of us. For some, it means a chance to relax by a pool, or to enjoy it from the comfort of air conditioning. Those options do not work for our farm animals, so what do farmers do to help them?
There are a number of different ways farmers cool their barns. Although not every farm uses the same methods, all are quite effective at helping keep the animals and birds comfortable.
The most common cooling methods for barns are fans and natural ventilation. These fans and ventilation systems can take many different shapes. Fans can range in size from small to very large, and can be set to turn on automatically or be turned on manually. Natural ventilation is often used in conjunction with fans, just like people without air conditioning in their homes often both open their windows and turn on fans.
Many farmers have alarm systems built into their barn control panel. On these farms, if there’s a problem such as the power going off or the fans not working, the alarm system is programmed to call the house or cellular phone to report the problem.
The temperature of the barn is monitored by these controls – and again, if there’s any sharp and unexpected increase or decrease in the barn’s temperature, the farmer will immediately be notified. All aspects of the barn’s ventilation and fan system are regulated through computers.
Many new barns are being built with either curtains or panels along the length of the wall which can be lowered and raised depending on the temperature in the barn. Again, some are adjusted automatically while others are adjusted manually.
Water is also critical for keeping animals cool. Farmers make sure their birds and animals have a constant supply of clean, fresh water to drink. Some farms have also installed misting systems to cover the animals in a fine layer of water and use evaporative cooling to keep them comfortable.
For animals living on pasture (like beef cattle or sheep), some form of shade is necessary to help them escape the sun. In some cases, this shade is provided by trees, while in other cases the shade is provided by a man-made shelter. Although in the past it may have been common to see animals wading into creeks to help cool off, this practice is becoming obsolete to help protect our water supplies.
In all barns and pasture systems, no matter which methods the farmers use to cool the animals and birds, they check on a regular basis to make sure all of the animals and birds are comfortable and healthy.