Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping the Animals Cool

With the Tri-State area (southeastern Tennessee, northwest Georgia & northeast Alabama) suffering a record heat wave, the biggest priority this week is keeping the animals hydrated and as cool as possible.

According to the groomer, Misty should not be shaved due to risk of skin cancer with her pink skin.  (I did grab a scissors today and trim off some belly hair.)  Instead she cools off by getting wet when she gets a drink.  When she's in the pigs' pasture, she lies down in their kiddie pool.

During the day we keep her up by the house where she can lay on the back porch and get the breeze from the ceiling fans or burrow into her "cave" under the bushes in front of the house.  A full water-bowl is a given, with periodic infusions of ice cubes to cool it down.

Since Herb and Kara have to be in Denver for his sister's memorial during the exact days of the heat wave (!), he moved the horses to the Back Pasture before he left.  It hadn't been grazed recently, so there's plenty of grass although the sun is gradually burning it crunchy.  Once we were done with Siobhan's AI on Friday, I moved the cattle back to join them.  (While in the round pen for the AI, they had water, shade, and some grass with cool leaves to snack on from the woods around the pen.)

Besides the pond for water in the Back Pasture, there's the mud hole in the old part of the pond where the cattle like to cool off.  (No, Siobhan didn't shrink; this photo is from last summer.  It's too darn hot to wait around for another photo op!)  We also filled the large tank to make sure they'd have plenty of water.

 The Back Pasture (in this older photo) has the biggest grove of trees inside a fence.  There's plenty of shade for everyone right around the pond.  And after bush-hogging the Lower Pasture Friday, I can testify to the cooler air that wafts out from a grove of trees.  We have a mineral block out there, too, for the animals to help their electrolyte balance.

The pigs have their kiddie pool (see the photo below with Ping) which they use often during the day.  Whenever I feed, I refill it, and they usually come running for a shower.  It's fun to see them dancing around in the water spray.  They have a rain barrel with a drinking nozzle (background), but they just drink right from the kiddie pool.  We filled the large water tank since they are now big enough to stand on their rear legs and drink from it.  It also makes a nice clean water source for Misty at night.

Before we ever thought of getting pigs, we planned for a shade grove while Herb was fencing the Home Pasture.   By thinning out the underbrush, we made it more accessible to animals while allowing the existing trees to grow bigger without competition.  The pigs love this grove and spend a good part of the day down at the bottom of it.

Ping enjoys the pigs' kiddie pool, too.  In fact, she thinks it's hers, although she's so timid that she runs away quacking whenever the pigs appear.

Herb built a support for this pool for our last pair of pigs and it has held up beautifully, even with 325 lb. pigs using it!  We bought two pools and doubled them for durability.  Ping also has a shade tarp attached to the coop and fence (background) which she and the pigs use.  She spends most of her time under the coop, though, if she's not in the pool.

The hens, ducks, and cats in the barnyard spend most of the day in the barn where I'm keeping our large, powerful fan going constantly.  They make forays into the sun to scratch manure or eat flies, but the ducks are most active at dusk when the bugs come out.  Yesterday I hosed the entire coop down about 6:30 p.m. to help cool it by evaporation; it was almost completely dry when I shut up the chickens at 9:30 p.m.

When it started to get hot, Herb oriented the chicken tractor north and south so the tarp provides shade on at least one side throughout the day.  I refill the 3 gallon waterer every morning, making sure it's level so as not to lose water.  The chickens are eating less grain in this heat which is a good thing since grain makes them hotter.  They sure are eager for the fresh grass when I move the tractor in the morning.

Hero, Zephyr and I spend most of the day in the house with the AC, unless I have to go out to the garden to change the water to a different bed.  Herb watered all the beds in the two days before he left, and I'm continuing to water all day long.  We have enough beds that it takes two days to get around them all, leaving the water for 2 or 3 hours on each one depending on its size.  It seems to be working because I've harvested almost 7 lbs. of bush beans, 11 lbs. of carrots, and 6 lbs. of pole beans in two days, not to mention a few tomatoes and a little squash.  Freezing them made a good excuse to stay inside where it's cool!

So that's how we keep cool and hydrated while we wait out this heat wave.  We have spotty storms predicted for all of next week, and we're praying for some good rain out of them to help alleviate our 6.5" deficit for the year.


  1. Cool! Ha,ha! Thanks, loved seeing all the animals and hearing how they are staying cool. We're having a cool spell here today, only 97!

  2. It's crazy that 97° feels cool, isn't it?

    Last night we had a very scary windstorm with lightning, and I thought of you all. I was just praying the giant oak tree outside the back door would stand strong, and it did. PTL! I had my cell phone and a powerful flashlight beside me in case I had to run down in the storm shelter with the dogs.

    We got a tiny bit of rain, but I was so thankful for it. And it's a bit cooler here this morning, 76° at 10 a.m. Sure beats yesterday's high of 104°!

  3. Hi susan, I liked this post on how you were keeping your animials cool in the hot weather. I love your chicken tractor too, that would be the perfict size for my farm. You may see one just like it on my blog some time:)

  4. Hey, Gordon, you are a man of action! You put up a post about barns, and the next post, you have a barn! I'll check your blog tomorrow to see if the chicken tractor is done! :D

    We are so thankful that the weather has cooled off a little, although I know the heat is not gone! We actually got a little rain today, although they had minor flooding in nearby Chattanooga. That's because they have too much concrete and nowhere for the rain to soak in--what a waste! But we are thankful for every drop and for cloud cover, too!


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