Cornerstone Acres Farm 

Sharing the cornerstones of good natural living and self-sufficiency. 

Ideas for beating the heat and watching your livestock for heat stress during the summer months.

It’s a hot one in our neck of the woods today.  I’m not complaining mind you…..just stating a fact.    Be sure that your critters have the right tools to keep cool this summer.

Rabbits for example would love to burrow into cool underground tunnels, but most of us now keep them in cages so we need to compensate.  Plenty of air flow is important and if you have a fan that would be a big help for them keeping cool.  Make sure they have shade.  A cooled ceramic tile works great for them to “chill” on (I saw a bunch for free on craigslist the other day).   Another idea (if you have the freezer space) is to freeze 2 liter bottles or butter dishes or whatever you may have with water and freeze.  I try and keep at least two for each cage frozen…..and if the freezers are particularly empty then I’ll shoot for three.  The larger quantity just makes it easier to rotate.   Rabbits dissipate a large amount of heat through their ears.  Try wetting the ears down with a little cool water if your rabbit(s) is pretty tolerant. 



 Fizzgig keeping cool.








The pigs should have shade, cool dirt and a nice wet wallow to take full advantage of.  I’m sure most of you know that while pigs have some sweat glands they are pretty useless compared to those of us sweaty and smelly humans.  A nice wet wallow gives them the opportunity to take advantage of the same cooling principle as sweating which works through evaporation.   I have used piggy popsicles as a treat on really hot days.  Squash and other vegetable frozen with animal preferred herbs and water into ice cube trays work great.  Mint is a nice “cooling” herb.  I just pop them out and store in freezer bags until I need them.  Even frozen tomatoes work for cool fun for the pigs.  The piggy popsicles work for the rabbits a well…..try carrots and weeds frozen in there!



 Yummy frozen treats!!

 (We also use muffin tins for slightly larger treats.)









The outside dogs (Personally I’m speaking of our LGD) need shade and if possible a place to dig in the cool dirt.   Ours even like a kiddie pool with water in it.   Make fun puppy popsicles for them to have on hot days.  A cool treat works for all of us!!  There is much debate on whether or not one should shave a dog in the summer.  I spent a lot of my morning doing some research on the subject.  The best I seem to be able to find on-line is this:  There is no proof whether it is bad or good.   There has been reports of alopecia and changes to the hair coat (especially double coated breeds like our Pyrs) if your dog is shaved.  I clipped (not shaved) our male, Reign this year but that was mostly to remove the matting from the winter/spring.    

Horses can often be hosed down to cool off on those extremely hot days.  We even offered an oscillating sprinkler one year it was so hot.  They LOVED it!  I wonder if Ginger the cow will feel the same way.  Just in case your animals DON’T relish the idea of the sprinkler spray, don’t block their route to the water tank or shade with the sprinkler. 

For livestock in general here are some thoughts.

Make sure shade is always available.  We don’t have many trees on our property where the pastures are so for the smaller livestock (goats, pigs, LGD and ducks mostly) we have had to make shade.   For the goats we made use of a few extra cattle panels and bent them into a “hoop house” type shape and covered with a tarp.  It might not do much in a heavy rainstorm (it’s only 4 feet wide in the one direction) but it works nifty for giving a shady spot for lounging.  

ALWAYS MAKE SURE CLEAN FRESH WATER IS AVAILABLE.   If possible we use multiple buckets and fill with cool fresh water more frequently.   Animals are more likely to keep hydrated if cool fresh water is always available.  Water set in the sun can get warm pretty fast, especially if set in the sun.  Try to utilize shady areas for water tank and water bucket placement when possible.   Make sure that ALL your animals are taking adequate amounts of water.    

Limit exercise.   This actually includes the fact that you need to manage flies and other pests as best as you can.  Swatting, stomping and running from flies can be too much for an animal especially during daytime heat waves.

Limit grazing time to cooler mornings or evenings if you can.

Watch the humidity…it isn’t always just about the temperature.  The high humidity of our summers here coupled with heat can be deadly.  High humidity does not allow the sweat to evaporate and cool the body as efficiently as it normally would.

Utilize fans if you can.  One year we hung the fans with frozen milk jugs hung in front of them.  Seemed to be the preferred spot to hang out for the critters that could get to the spot!!  Be advised though, a misting system can increase humidity and make things worse.  If you are going to offer a wetting system for critters the skin should be getting wet for them to benefit from the application, bigger droplets instead of “mist” works better for this.

Pregnant, elderly and very young animals may need extra vigilant care during extreme weather. 

If possible, avoid stressful situations during heat waves things like weaning and moving to new homes. 

KNOW each animal so you can see if something seems “off”.  KNOW each species you own and KNOW what normal temperatures and respiration rates should be for them.  KNOW the signs of heat related stress.  KNOW how to check for dehydration.

Here are the normal vital signs for common livestock and farm animals (the ones I own anyway!): all temps listed are Fahrenheit unless otherwise specified.

Dairy cows:

Normal Rectal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  100.4˚ to 102.0˚  

(Calves) 101.5˚ to 103˚

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults) 48 to 84 beats per minute

(Calves) 100 to 140 beats per minute

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 26 to 50 breaths per minute

(Calves) 30 to 60 breaths per minute




Normal rectal temperature:

 99 - 101

 Normal resting Heart Rate:

 36 to 42 beats per minute. 

 Young stock and ponies tend to be a bit faster.

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

8-12 breaths per minute. 



Normal Rectal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  101.5* to 103.5*

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults) beats per minute 70-80

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 10-30 breaths per minute

(Kids) 20-40 breaths per minute



Normal Rectal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  103.3-104

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults)  130 -200 beats per minute (NOTE: handling alone can increase rabbit heart rate)

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 30-60 breaths per minute



Normal Rectal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  101 -102.5*

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults)  70-190 beats per minute (bigger the dog generally the slower the heartbeat)

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 10-30 breaths per minute


Normal Rectal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  101.8 to 102.9*

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults) 60-80 beats per minute

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 20-30 breaths per minute



Normal Temperature Range:

(Adults)  104 to 109.4*

Normal Resting Heart Rate Range:

(Adults) 250-300 beats per minute

Normal Resting Respiratory Rate Range:

(Adults) 12-28 breaths per minute



Here are a few signs of heat stress in animals.  This general info  and not all species will exhibit all symptoms.

For animals that don’t sweat, look for slobbering and drooling followed by heavy open-mouth breathing and panting.   Be especially watchful for signs of incoordination, disorientation, and trembling, weakness, animals that are “down”,

Dehydration can often be determined by skin turgor.   To determine skin turgor in a human grasp the skin on the back of the hand, lower arm or abdomen between two fingers so that it is tented up. The skin is held for a few seconds then released. Skin with normal turgor snaps rapidly back to its normal position. Skin with decreased turgor remains elevated and returns slowly to its normal position. The “test” is performed similarly with animals, just in different locations….shoulders or neck in many. Decreased skin turgor is a late sign in dehydration.

Hmmm, somehow I forgot cats?   Well maybe I’ll go out and bathe a barn cat in cold water and let you know how that goes. 

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Farm Production Totals

Wow...I'm WAY behind in posting totals.  I guess 2017 will be a better year.  ;)


(last update 6/22/17)

Meat: 0

Vegetables/fruits: 48#

Eggs (chicken only):  1038

Honey: 0

Maple Syrup: 0 (this year is a bust)

Fiber: 2.94 oz

Babies born/hatched: 97

Jars into the pantry (dehydrated and canned): 16

Milk: 20+ gallons (I haven't been keeping track very well!)

New Additions:  12



(last update 10/31/15)


Meat: 362#

Vegetables/Fruit: 551.88#

Eggs: 1918

Honey: 28#

Maple Syrup:  2 gallons

Angora Fiber:

Babies Born/hatched:  157

Jars into the pantry: 113

Milk: 16 gallons

New additons:  60 (plus a nuc of bees)
























Meat: 240#

Vegetables/Fruit: Didn't keep track

Eggs: 3348

Honey: 1 pint

Maple Syrup: None

Angora Fiber: 5 oz

Babies Born/hatched: 168

Jars into the pantry: 150

Milk: 5 gallons