As Climate Change Ramps Up Heat, Farmers Struggle to Keep Animals Cool — The Counter

“A pig’s ideal temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So on a 90-degree day in the middle of July, Phil Borgic kept a close eye on his herd. “A pig can’t sweat,” he said. “So the only way that it can transfer the heat is by panting.” The air was humid and heavy with the smell of manure on Borgic Farms in Raymond, Illinois. Although the pigs weren’t panting yet, Borgic, the farm’s owner, turned on eight massive cooling fans with six-foot blades designed to suck the hot air out of the long barn. If it gets hotter still, he said it’d be time to turn on the sprinklers. As summers heat up due to climate change, Borgic said he’s invested thousands of dollars in new systems and technologies designed to protect his animals from the dangers of heat stress. And he’s not alone. Not only is keeping animals cool essential for their comfort and safety, but it’s also important for their productivity. Borgic said pigs don’t eat when they’re too hot, so it takes longer for them to hit their target harvest weight. The same goes for cows, said Mississippi State University professor Amanda Stone, whose research focuses on heat stress in dairy cattle. “Dairy cattle, particularly lactating dairy cattle, experience heat stress at a lot lower temperature than what most people would imagine,” she said. Signs of heat stress start to show up around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, she said. At that point, there are a range of effects, including reproductive issues and decreased milk production of up to 25 percent…More research is needed in this area, Stone said, as global temperatures continue to rise and the number of dangerous heat days increases. “The world is getting hotter, and so we are seeing more issues related to heat stress,” she said. “As the world changes, agriculture has to adjust with it.”

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