Welcome to The Blue Ribbon - Youth Livestock Projects blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide information, advice and suggestions for improving youth livestock projects from multiple sources. The information, advice and suggestions in this blog come from professional agricultural educators who have multiple years of experience working with youth and their livestock projects. If you ever have a question or a particular subject you would like addressed, please feel free to contact Scott Stinnett via email, or leave a comment and we will do our best to assist or address the subject. Should the question or subject be more technical, we will help direct you to an appropriate resource for the best possible answer.

Thank you,

Scott Stinnett and The Blue Ribbon Contributors

Friday, December 16, 2016

Heat Lamps - Help or Hazard?

     In the cold of winter, we feel the need to keep animals comfortable by providing some type of warm location for them. Many youth livestock projects are limited in number and instead of building an expensive insulated barn, heat lamps are used to provide a heat source for animals. But are heat lamps a helpful tool or a hazard we put in our livestock shelters?

Helpful Tool

     A heat lamp can be a simple, inexpensive way to provide heat to animals during extreme cold. Hanging or clamp mounting heat lamps with a bulb can start as low as $15. Heat lamps can easily warm the area they are aimed at to comfortable temperatures above 70 degrees.

     Proper installation is important. Heat lamp mounting should:
  1. Be high enough animals cannot reach the lamp
  2. Be secured with a small chain or cable and not hung by the cord
  3. Be plugged in directly to a grounded outlet
  4. Be fully fitted with all protective guards and shields
  5. Be located away from moisture or bedding
  6. Be tested to see the temperature they produce at animal level is not to hot

    A heat lamp can cause some problems that pose a hazard in the barn or shed:
  1. Heat lamps can produce enough heat to possibly burn the skin of an animal, such as a piglet sleeping under one.
  2. The heat produced can dry out bedding like shavings and straw, making it more flammable.
  3. Bulbs can shatter unexpectedly because of moisture or dust on the bulb, leaving broken glass on the floor of the barn or pen.
  4. Hot broken glass can be hot enough to ignite bedding like shavings and straw, causing a fire.
     There are some heat lamps that claim to be safer and better than the more inexpensive ones. They are fully enclosed to prevent shattered glass from escaping, and use a more sturdy heat lamp bulb than the $15 ones.


     The alternatives to heat lamps to keep animals warm vary:
  • Warming pads can be used to give newborn animals a warm place to lay. The pads should not be used with bedding in case they would overheat, possibly causing a fire. 
  • Blankets and body socks are available for newborn kids, lambs, up to large horses to help keep them warm.
  • Extra bedding like straw will allow animals to have more insulation between them and the cold ground. Pigs will burrow into deep straw to keep warm.
  • Keeping animals together will allow them to use their combined body heat to stay warm. Notice how newborn pigs, kids and lambs will lay on each other to stay warm.
     When it comes to using heat lamps, the choice is up to the individual animal owner. Heat lamps are used by many animal producers each year without a problem. They should be used properly and be monitored while in use. If they seem to be a hazard to you, alternatives are available to keep your livestock projects warm during those extremely cold days.

Scott Stinnett
Extension Associate
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension

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