As summers intensify and heatwaves wash across the country, it’s going to become increasingly important to consider how to actively and passively cool off areas where your pets frequent. A big stand out here is the classic barn. Your horses live here, your cattle rest here, your barn cats live here, and your dogs frequent it for shade and water in the heat already. Why not take this to the next level and make it a cooling paradise for you AND your pets? Here are some strategies you can implement:
- Check your Ventilation and Insulation:
First and foremost, consider the design of your barn: Proper ventilation is crucial to allow hot air to escape and cooler air to circulate. If your barn has a hay loft that is poorly ventilated it can restrict air flow, making your barn feel musty and overly hot. High ceilings, ridge vents, and turbine vents can all contribute to improved air circulation. Insulation can also help prevent heat from penetrating the structure of your barn, further improving the air quality within.
- Plant Shade Plants and Use Reflective Coatings on Buildings:
Providing shade around the barn can also help reduce the temperature. This could include planting trees strategically (taking into account their mature size and potential root disruption) or installing shades over windows and doors. Additionally, consider using reflective paint or roof coating on the exterior of the barn to help deflect some of the sun's rays.
If you need fast growing shade, consider looking into the North American River Cane. It’s a native species of Bamboo that used to be found across most of the Eastern United States, grows quickly, and creates nice wind and shade breaks. The larger variants of North American River Cane can even reach upwards of 30 ft in a few years, lending your barn or pastures quite a bit more shade and shelter!
- Consider Barn Cooling Systems:
Depending on your budget and the size of your barn, you might consider installing a barn-specific cooling system. This could include high-volume low-speed (HVLS) fans, misting systems, or even barn air conditioners. These systems can dramatically decrease the barn's temperature, making it more comfortable for your animals.
A low budget alternative is to purchase mister hoses or sprinklers yourself and use them inside of your barn and on the roof of the barn. This may sound odd at first, but placing a sprinkler into your rain gutters can help you spray down your roof. This can cool your barn by several degrees, especially if you have a metal roof for your barn! The same can be said for adding misters above your alleyways and stalls. These can be unobtrusively installed to follow your posts, walls, and stalls. If you truly want to get fancy with your cooling system, you can create a rain catchment system off of your barn’s gutters! One decent water pump attached to your roof sprinklers means you’ll primarily be recycling the water you use to cool the barn down and each rain storm will top off your water barrels!
- Upgrade your Pet’s Hydration and Electrolytes:
Ensure your animals always have access to plenty of fresh, clean water. During heatwaves, animals will naturally drink more to stay hydrated. Adding electrolytes to their water can help replenish those lost through excessive sweating.
- Adjust your Feeding Times & Servings:
Feed produces heat as it's digested, so consider adjusting feeding times to cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening. If you have a particularly feisty pet, consider introducing calming foods into their diet (with vet advice, first and foremost) such as calming oil or calming chew. This can help your feisty animals calm down, reducing the risk that they overheat accidentally.
- Closely Monitor your Animals:
Finally, closely monitor your animals for signs of heat stress, such as excessive sweating, panting, or lethargy. If any of these signs are noted, take immediate action to cool the animal and contact a veterinarian if needed.
Implementing these strategies can go a long way in making your barn heatwave-resistant. While you can't control the weather, you can control how prepared you are for it, ensuring your barn remains a safe and comfortable space for your animals.