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Home >  Blog >  Small Farm Summer Livestock Management

Small Farm Summer Livestock Management

Posted by Amanda Walker on 18 January 2017
Small Farm Summer Livestock Management

Caring for your farm animals in summer

Caring for livestock on your small farm is year-round chore, but summer brings its own set of issues. Heat stress, increased risk of parasites and the need to supplement the diets of your livestock are all factors that you may need to consider during the hottest part of the year.

Heat Stress

The extreme heat that we can encounter in many parts of Australia over summer, not only makes us humans feel cross and uncomfortable but causes significant stress for your livestock and pets. You can reduce the impact of extreme heat on your animals by paying attention to the following:


Access to plentiful, fresh, cool drinking water as we discussed in our article on summer water management is the first essential point you must address.  Water containers should be large enough to cater to the number of animals you have, easy for them to access and close to where the animals are housed. They should also be kept clean and safe and regularly checked for repairs. If you are unable to continually check and refill troughs and containers, water levels should be maintained remotely with wireless monitoring systems and pump controllers. 

Shade and shelter

Shelters that shade your animals from the sun while allowing for cooling airflow from wind are the best kind for extreme heat.  Shelters can be constructed with traditional building materials like wood and galvanised steel, or newer materials like shade cloth.
Trees with large canopies are ideal for creating cooler places for animals to shelter, not only because of the shade they create. Moisture evaporates from leaves to cool the surrounding atmosphere and make your animals more comfortable.

Working and Moving animals

Moving animals about in hot temperatures, by foot or vehicle, should be minimised. Like children, dogs should never be left in a car on hot days. Avoid exercising dogs and horses in the extreme heat of the day choose cooler morning and evening temperatures which will be kinder to your as well.

Identifying animals at high risk of heat stress

Some animals are more susceptible to heat stress than others including:

  • pigs, which can become heat stressed at a lower temperature level and are prone to sunburn
  • newly shorn sheep (also at risk of sunburn)
  • lactating cattle
  • darker and larger animals
  • cattle, alpacas and llamas

You should become familiar with the needs of each type of livestock on your farm in heat (for example, providing mud wallows for pigs) and ensure these elements are in place before the summer heat takes hold.

Signs of heat stress to look out for include:

  • panting and increased breathing rate
  • increased water intake
  • loss of appetite
  • listless/lethargy
  • increased salivation
  • loss of consciousness

Heat stress can be treated by moving animals to a shaded area, offering cool clean drinking water, spraying them with water (excluding poultry, unless there is a breeze to dry them), and trying to increase air movement around them. Contact your vet if they don't show any sign of improvement

Summer parasites in sheep and other livestock

Parasite infection is a significant animal welfare issue and can lead to illness and death if left untreated. Regular monitoring of your animals and a preventative treatment plan is essential to keep your livestock healthy. Worms, fleas, lice, ticks and flies can be big issues on small that run sheep, which are susceptible to a range of parasites and diseases.  See why parasite control should be your number one priority if you own sheep.


It is important that everyone who has even just a few sheep has at least a basic understanding of worm disease and how to manage it. Worms are normally present in sheeps' guts and lay eggs that are passed out in the dung. The eggs hatch into larvae which can survive several months in the pasture and be ingested by other grazing sheep. In this way, worms can infestation an entire flock unless properly managed. 

If you have sheep on your farm, you should have a worm management plan which includes drenching, grazing management, nutrition and breeding worm resistant sheep.

You can minimise the presence of parasites by regularly testing your sheep (for example via faecal egg count monitoring) to see if there is an emerging problem such as drench resistance.  This will enable you to act before the problem builds and starts affecting your entire flock. Sheep that have been drenched should be put onto clean pasture and the old pasture rested as long as possible.

If you find you need to drench more often than this, there could be problems with your worm management plan such as drench resistance (often caused by underdosing your sheep) and you should consult your vet for advice.  Goats and alpacas should also be drenched at the same time as your sheep.  See our range of drenching products.


Ticks can be an issue in cattle as well as dogs - you can use a dip and spray concentrate to deal with susceptible ticks in these animals.


Don't forget your feathered friends either! Birds and poultry can be prone to diseases such as Coccidiosis, an intestinal disease caused when a microscopic parasitic organism attaches itself to the intestinal lining of a chicken. Younger chickens (under six months) are at  higher risk and the disease can spread among different avian species.  Different strains of Coccidiosis can affect other animals such as pigs. Treatment with a medical compound can help curtail this disease.


Aren't flies annoying! But if the common fly is ruining your BBQ, it's nothing compared to what buffalo fly can do to cattle or flystrike to sheep.  Protect cattle from buffalo fly with devices such as insecticide ear tags.

Nutritional supplements for summer

Due to lack of rainfall, good pasture can be in short supply in summer and your grazing animals such as sheep, cows, goats, horses and alpacas are likely to need nutritional top ups in the form of additional food and supplements. 

Many small lifestyle farms can have lower quality pasture in contrast to commercial livestock operations which may have invested in 'improved pasture' with grasses specially selected for production, palatability and fast regrowth. When pasture quality is low, animals will need supplementary feeding with hay or pellets and may need additional nutritional supplements to keep their diets balanced and ensure they are not short of essential minerals and vitamins.  During the summer, some animals will lose more electrolytes such as nitrogen, magnesium and sodium.

If you have a variety of different animals on your small farm that require supplemental feeding, you may wish to look at feed products such as 'hobby mix' that are designed to feed a range of ruminants and horses.

Supplementing your livestock's diet with nutritional supplements is important to support their health when they cannot derive adequate supplements from pasture. Seek advice from your vet and check out our range of nutritional supplements.

Caring for your animals in summer

As you can see, there are a range of factors you need to pay attention to, to ensure your small farm animals are kept in the best health over summer. Summer is probably the most testing season for farms of all sizes in Australia due to our extremes of climate. Paying extra attention to your animals during this season can pay off for the rest of the year.

Author: Amanda Walker
About: Amanda Walker is the Director of The Farm Co and Yerecoin Traders. Amanda has extensive experience in animal health, working for a number of years with the Institute for Animal Health in the UK. Amanda also worked for a UK government response team during the Foot and Mouth outbreak back in in 2001. Amanda has a keen interest in sheep and livestock health, working with her local grower to help manage their parasite control throughout the seasons.
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Tags: The FARM Co Animal Health Buffalo Fly Flystrike Flystrike prevention General Farm Integrated Pest Management Pigs Poultry Sheep Sheep Lice Small Farm Management Small Farm Supplies

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