It’s hot. In fact it’s very hot! The summer heatwave means we’re seeing lots of sun cream, wide-brimmed hats and ice-creams around the Farm Park at the moment. There are plenty of ways for our visitors to stay cool and safe in the sun and similarly the Farm Park staff are making sure the animals are calm and comfortable too.
Just like us, livestock need shade and water when the temperatures rise. In the paddocks there are shady spots which the animals will seek out for themselves as soon as the air begins to warm and their water troughs are getting topped up throughout the day. There are other similarities between humans and farm animals; did you know that some livestock are prone to sunburn if they spend too long in direct sunlight? Fairer-skinned horse and pig breeds react in the same way that fair-headed and pale-skinned people do. And the solution is the same too. Animal-safe sun block can be applied, especially to pigs’ ears and horse’s noses where the skin is particularly sensitive. If you’ve visited the Farm Park in the last few weeks you may have seen the pigs outside sploshing around in their wallows. It’s fun to watch but it’s also natural behaviour and the perfect way for a pig to cool down and protect their skin with a lovely layer of mud. Meanwhile in the animal barn, our team are treating the pigs there to giant ice cubes and refreshing sprays of water. Bliss!
Sheep are altogether different. We shear our flocks early in the season, during May and June, so they’ve already lost their winter woollies! Shearing helps sheep regulate their body temperature and it’s important for their general health and cleanliness too.
This time of the year, when conditions are at their hottest and most sultry, is sometimes called ‘the dog days of summer’ (because it’s said Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun). But sweltering weather is no friend to dogs and we’re being extra vigilant to make sure our working dogs enjoy the sunshine in safety. Dogs can’t cool down by sweating like we do, so instead they pant. After even a gentle walk or a short burst of exercise it’s perfectly normal for a dog to pant, but in hot weather it’s important to work them much less. Exercise is best done in the morning and evening, the coolest parts of the day, and with tarmac and paving stones like ovens right now, keeping a check on their paws is good practice too. And once the animals are happy, the rest of us can enjoy the heatwave. Now where are those giant ice-cubes?