Beating the Heat

Heat stress is a real and all-too-common problem most farmers, particularly those in hot climates, must deal with. Heat stress can result in drastically-reduced productivity levels and profit losses. To combat heat stress, farmers know the importance of shade, good ventilation, and taking advantage of cool morning or evening hours when moving or working their livestock. Another smart element of any livestock cooling system is the use of misters in their production facilities. When used in combination with fans, misters can be a valuable asset for fighting livestock heat stress and maintaining healthy productivity levels.

What Is a Livestock Misting System?

A form of evaporative cooling, livestock misting systems atomize drops of water into a super-fine cold-water mist which lowers animal body temperatures, and can reduce the ambient room temperature by as much as 15° F. High pressure misting systems create the super-fine mist that evaporates and cools the air. Low pressure misting systems create larger (though still extremely small) drops of water that fall on the skin: it cools, but it also wets.

The General Benefits of Livestock Misters

Misting systems are fairly easy to install—they generally tap into an existing water line—requiring little maintenance beyond general upkeep of nozzles and filters, and do not use large amounts of water, particularly when run on a timer.

Not only do automated misters effectively cool your livestock, they save time, freeing the farmer up for other tasks. Healthy, cool animals need less veterinary attention and are more likely to maintain peak productivity levels.

Misters also are excellent for keeping dust and pollen levels down; and they can help fight irritating flies by wetting their wings. Some folks also attest to the fact that misting also helps reduce odor—the fine water droplets attach to the odor particles in the air, literally knocking them down, like dust.

The Specific Benefits of Livestock Misters

Poultry

Poultry, like all livestock, will display reduced production levels as a result of heat stress. Birds suffering from heat stress will be susceptible to weakened immune systems that can result in lower resistance to disease and increase the likelihood of other health problems. In males, heat stress can cause fertility reduction by as much as 30%. Animals suffering from heat stress will also tend to move and eat less, which, in chickens, can result in reduced egg production and eggs with poor shell quality. Stress-free broilers will continue to eat and grow if not suffering from excessive heat, and breeders will be more consistently productive during hot weather.

The smart use of misters can help producers avoid these problems. For smaller poultry operations, misting fans can be effective for spot-cooling specific areas.

Dairy

The use of misters in dairy production will help livestock maintain healthy productivity levels and keep profit levels high.

The main effect of heat stress in dairy cattle is lower milk production—both in terms of volume and components—by as much as 30-40 percent. That is an enormous number. This typically results from lower dry-matter feed conversion. Some estimates suggest the decrease in milk productivity causes the average dairy operation a loss of some $39,000 yearly, and as much as $1.2 billion dollars, nationally.

That said, heat stress will have a negative health effect on a cow, generally. This includes weakened immune systems leading to mastitis and respiratory problems—all of which affect the producer’s bottom line. Misters can help prevent these costly conditions.

Swine

In the pig production operation, misters will help farrowing sows to maintain a normal appetite. This, in turn, will help with milk production, leading to improved litter weight and healthier future litter sizes. In boar studs, cool environments will help prevent lower sperm counts and a regular sex drive. The average pig will also be more likely to eat normally which will result in healthier, more productive animals that gain weight as expected.

The benefits of misting livestock are various. Creating a cool, comfortable environment will help maintain peak egg, milk, and meat production levels. It will also help maintain healthy breeding and growth rates and result in overall healthier living environments due to decreased pollen and dust levels and lower local insect populations. Water use in misting systems is not exceptionally high and when considered against production gains, a misting system quickly pays for itself.

Do you use a misting system in your production facility? Tell us your experience in the comments section!