That will likely make for the hottest stretch of days this year, and the National Weather Service Forecast already has issued a series of heat and hazardous weather advisories for much of the area.
It looks as though Northwest Ohio will be hardest hit, with the forecast showing a heat index of 100-105 degrees Monday-Thursday, with overnight lows only in the 70s.
Needless to say, that is some dangerously hot weather. The weather service advises “to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.”
It may be common sense, but farmers also need to remember the dangers of high heat and the proper ways to be prepared. I’m not an animal science expert, but I’ve learned over the years how critical it is to keep plenty of clean, cool water available for livestock and farm pets, and to keep the fans and cooling systems in good repair.
I raised beef cattle in my teens and early 20s and I remember one year around 1995 when it was so hot, my dad and I made an emergency trip to buy a second barn fan. We noticed several of the cattle were breathing heavy and becoming lethargic, and we needed to get more air moving quickly. It was not cheap, but I bought a large, over-sized fan that provided the added circulation we needed and it’s in use today, about 15 years later.
Shade is another important factor for just about any animal. Pets and dogs kept outside need a heavily shaded area to escape, free of obstacles by which to become entangled. I keep both my hunting dogs beneath a couple large trees, which keeps them surprisingly cool. If it gets too hot, though, I’ll be putting them in a transport kennel and bringing them inside.
In the past, when I raised rabbits, I filled an old milk or orange juice container mostly full with water, and put it in the house freezer a night or two before the hot weather. When it was nice and frozen, I’d put the container into the rabbit’s cage and he’d spread himself beside it, enjoying his own little air conditioner.
While the animals are important, it’s also important to remember the caretakers. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary beverages and alcohol will go a long way to keep hydrated and cool.
For many farmers, the work must go on no matter what the weather throws their way. And they’re some of the hardest working people I know, but, even the most steadfast and hard working of people can fall victim to heat stroke and even death, if not careful.
If possible, labor intensive tasks like loading and unloading hay should be done in the early morning or late evening hours, when it’s a bit cooler. Some farmers have enough wagons that they can spend the hotter part of the day baling, and the cooler parts unloading. And anyone who has ever unloaded hay or straw bales knows, when it’s 92 outside, it could be 102 on top of that hay stack.
I know some will say you just have to deal with the heat. And to an extent, that’s probably true. But, when you hear reports about people dying and going to the hospital with heat stroke, those are all very real.
It all comes down to personal choice and how much you value your health and the health of your animals. If we see the temperatures this week that experts are predicting, both things will be put to the test.