Summers can be tough on farm animals. Ambient temperatures are an important environmental influence with a direct impact on animal welfare and performance. While we enjoy warm temperatures in the summer, animals get too hot rather quickly and end up suffering from heat stress. Depending on the species, the consequences of heat stress range from increased water and decreased feed intake to decreased performance, gastrointestinal problems, a less stable immune system and a higher risk of illness.
For example, the best conditions for health, performance, survival rate, and meat quality in poultry involve temperatures ranging from 18 to 22°C. In laying hens, impaired performance results in reduced feed intake, low egg weight and fragile eggshells. They also lay fewer eggs. Cattle and pigs suffer from heat stress too. In the case of dairy cows, heat stress sets in between 21°C (high humidity) and 27°C (dry heat). The higher the temperature and the humidity, the lower the feed intake and milk production. Even fish farms are affected significantly by the ambient temperature because sunlight increases the water temperature, which in turn decreases the water’s oxygen levels. In the midday heat, fish can suffer from hypoxia, which damages their organisms.
If acceptable temperature ranges are exceeded, the animals change their behaviour and must expend energy to maintain their core body temperature. They absorb more water, breathe faster and more shallowly, reduce their feed intake and move less. Osmotic and oxidative stress reduce the integrity of the intestinal walls, impairing the immune system and increasing the risk of inflammation. More free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) form in high temperatures. High concentrations of ROS can damage biological molecules such as DNA, proteins, lipids or carbohydrates. This results in reduced growth, reduced egg production and poor meat quality.
Generally, livestock temperature sensitivity is influenced by genetics, performance levels, stocking density, relative humidity and air velocity in the stable. Livestock owners can rely on numerous recommendations to optimise stable construction, ventilation and control systems, and drinking water supply to avoid heat stress. For example, for poultry, an air flow of 4.5 m³ per hour for each kilogram of livestock in the stable should be ensured through additional ventilation.
In addition to these external measures, animal health can also be ensured ›from within‹ with adequate feed. Feeding provides additional options for increasing an animal’s resistance to stress and thus decreases the negative effects of heat stress. Anta®Ox, the flavonoid-rich additive from Dr. Eckel Animal Nutrition, promotes resistance to heat stress in a natural manner. Anta®Ox is a valuable additive that can be relied on to add nutritious flavonoids to feed. Flavonoids are phytochemicals from the family of polyphenols, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Studies confirm that Anta®Ox stabilises animal performance (milk production, milk nutrients, fattening) and promotes animal health during stressful phases. Now is the time to optimise feed for cattle, pigs, laying hens, broilers and fish with Anta®Ox in preparation for the summer.
TVT (German Veterinary Association for Animal Protection) Fact Sheet No. 100, Avoiding Heat Damage in Farm Animals (Poultry, Pigs, Cattle)