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Innovative ways to beat heat this summer

For the Health of It: New tools and tech help farmers stay ahead of the next heat wave.

May 24, 2024

3 Min Read
Farmer in field with cattle in background
KEEP COVERED: A traditional wide-brimmed hat is one of the tools that helps farmers and ranchers stay ahead of the heat and handle the sun this summer. Curt Arens

Editor’s note: For a Spanish version of this story, click “Download now” at the top or bottom of this page.

by Ellen Duysen

From working calves to fixing that broken pivot, there is no end to the jobs that farmers and ranchers must complete in the heat of summer.

Strenuous work for long periods in hot conditions increases the risk of heat illness. Many producers have felt the effects of hot and humid conditions, and experience symptoms ranging from mild heat rash to life-threatening heat stroke. 

We have known for many years proven ways to protect ourselves in the heat, including wearing light, breathable clothing; choosing a wide-brimmed hat instead of a baseball cap; drinking plenty of water and electrolytes before we get thirsty; and avoiding outside work in the hottest parts of the day, which in agriculture is a tough rule to follow.

New technologies, innovative materials and equipment can help prevent heat illness. From temperature warning systems to vests that cool your core, now is a great time to try something new to protect yourself from the heat. Here are some ideas:

Wearable warning devices. Smart wristbands will monitor your body temperature throughout the day, alerting you to temperature increases. These bands, which can cost as little as $10, will provide a visual warning when it is time to cool down.

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Suppose you want even more information about your environment. In that case, Kestrel Industries has a selection of wearable devices for you and your livestock designed to monitor and record environmental conditions — including temperature, humidity, heat index, dew point temperature and barometric pressure.

“There’s an app for that.” The OSHA/NIOSH Heat Index app provides a visual indicator on your phone of the heat index and risk levels specific to your location. You will receive information on heat index-associated risk levels; an interactive, hourly forecast of heat index values and risk levels; and recommendations for planning outdoor work activities.

The app will provide a list of heat stress signs and symptoms and first aid for heat-related illnesses. You can download this valuable app for free at

“Cool” clothing. To cool your core, consider a cooling vest or cooling sleeves. These low-cost options will provide relief from the heat for up to three hours. Some of these clothes require freezing the clothing or inserting ice packs. Those that use evaporation to cool may not be effective in humid conditions. 

Thermal monitors. Installing thermal monitors with wireless sensors in your buildings and barns will allow you to monitor temperature and humidity levels in real time, providing information on the risk of heat stress to you and your livestock. If needed, you can make modifications to reduce heat in your structures, such as adding thermal insulation or evaporative cooling systems. 

Even with new technology to help keep you safe in hot conditions, it is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness and act immediately at the first signs. Print a heat stress signs and symptoms poster for your workspace at

Print a copy of a heat prevention checklist at to ensure that you have done everything that you can to stay cool.

Duysen is a research assistant professor at the UNMC College of Public Health and is coordinator of CS-CASH.

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