The First Step in Diagnosing Health Problems in Livestock (Taking a Temperature)

When trying to diagnose illness and health problems in livestock there are many things to consider. There is one basic first step that is true for cattle, goats, sheep, hogs, and horses. That first step is getting an accurate temperature of the animal in question.

In the course of a year, I get a lot of questions from readers and podcast listeners about sick animals. Just like a vet, my first question is “what is her temperature?”. I have found that about 80% of the time the person doesn’t know. Not only that, they don’t know how to take an animal’s temperature. And to top it off, they don’t have a rectal thermometer.

Step One…Buy one of these

There are several reasons to buy a digital thermometer rather than a glass one. If you drop it on the ground or floor, it won’t shatter into a million pieces. It is also pretty fool proof and easy to read.

Step Two

You need to take the animal’s temperature. This is a very simple process. Spit on the end of the thermometer for lubrication purposes. Insert the thermometer into the animal’s rectum, turn it on, and wait for the “beep”. You may need to restrain the animal to do this but not always. Don’t let go of the thermometer because if the animal decides to poop, you will lose it.

Now you have valuable information that can help diagnose the problem at hand. A high temp means that there is some sort of infection present. A very low temp might mean that the animal has a digestive or metabolic problem. But the import thing is that once you know the temperature and observe and write down the other symptoms, whoever you want to help you will have the information they need to make the proper diagnosis. I will list the various normal temperatures for different species below.

Tractor Supply

Normal Temperatures by Species

Cattle 101.5
Goats 103
Sheep 100.9 – 103.8
Swine 101.5 – 102.5
Horse 99 – 101

One thought on “The First Step in Diagnosing Health Problems in Livestock (Taking a Temperature)

  • July 19, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks, Scott,
    That’s not something I would have thought of in the first few months we’ve been homesteading. Glad we have the digital thermometer.
    Have a great weekend,


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