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Heat Lamps: Are they worth it?

Heat lamps have been sparking up my social media news feeds quite a bit lately.

Heat lamps have been the cause of barn fires all across the country.

Which brings me to the question:

Are they worth it?

heat lamps

For those of you wondering the same thing, let me give you an insight to why they are used: Heat lamps are used for the purpose of keeping animals or objects warm.

Heat lamps should ONLY be used to help maintain an animal’s normal body temperature range.

This is primarily babies.

No matter when the baby animals are born, cold temperatures are bound to happen. You just never know.

It’s been 70 degrees in January in Kansas before. And, it’s also been -10 degrees.

Temperatures colder than 30 degrees Fahrenheit can wreak havoc on any birthing season.

Newborn animals can’t regulate their body temperatures at the normal rate that their parents can.

But, they need normal body temperatures, warm milk in their tummies, and dry bodies to have a chance at life.

Babies born in temperatures less than 30 degrees are at risk for a low temperature. A low body temperature can cause the baby to shut down internally.

Many producers think heat lamps are the answer. And they can raise livestock successfully using them.

So, have I ever used heat lamps?

Yes, I use these heat lamps when I feel it is necessary to use them.

I used a heat lamp when I jump started my new baby chicks last fall.

But I do feel there are times when they are not necessarily needed.

Here’s why:

  1. I don’t feel they are completely effective in extremely cold temperatures.
  2. They need to be watched like a hawk.
  3. They are expensive to run.
  4. I’ve uncovered a different way to warm my newborn kids, calves and lambs.

Not overly effective for wet newborns

In extreme temperatures less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ve had poor luck with newborn baby animals being able to maintain their normal body temperatures even under a heat lamp.

I’ve even had good proven mothers who could not work fast enough to dry their babies in time.

In the past, I did not know what else to do for these babies. They were under a heat lamp! They should’ve pulled through, right?

But, I learned. And now I know what to do.

It does not involve heat lamps.

Heat lamps need to be watched like a hawk…

But it still may not be enough.

Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.

It’s not because people aren’t careful. It’s because accidents happen.

Even lamps tied down or secured can have accidents. Mother animals could bump or break the bulbs causing a tragic fire incident.

I don’t have the time to be monitoring heat lamps 24/7. So, I found another way to warm animals that works better.

So, what I use instead of heat lamps to warm newborns

My kitchen sink. My basement. My home.

We keep our home warm and cozy. It’s the most ideal place to get body temperatures up to the point they can have milk.

The heated floorboard of our truck also works well for warming up cold baby animals.

Warming up cold animals take time and skill. It should be done slow enough but within a few hours of the newborn’s life.

heat lamps

A digital thermometer should be used to monitor the animal’s internal temperature to the point where it’s in normal range.

I use a warm bath and hair dryers in my kitchen to accomplish the task of raising and maintaining the baby’s body temperature.

For “housing”,  a large dog kennel with warm blankets work great until they are active and acting hungry.Within a few hours, they are ready to be with mom and have some colostrum.

As soon as the baby is up and going, its time to take it out to our enclosed barn to mom. I help the baby latch on to it’s mother so it can get milk in it’s tummy.

This method has been more effective than heat lamps for me. I’ve saved more live babies with this method than I ever did using a heat lamp to warm wet new babies.

When to Use Heat Lamps

Heat lamps should be used to help regulate newborn babies’ body temperatures until they are a couple of weeks old.

Make a small pen for ONLY the babies to escape to. Mothers and older babies do NOT need heat lamps.

Many people also use boxes, crates, or tubs with a heating source over the top for babies to go into for warmth.

This is all fine and dandy, but it’s still important to understand heat lamp safety when using heat lamps.

heat lamps

Heat Lamp Safety Tips

If you feel the use of a heat lamp is completely necessary, take extreme caution and know the risks involved.

Here are 8 tips for a safer heat lamp experience:

  1. Use UL-listed heat lamps and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Heat lamps with guards may provide some protection if the lamp falls into combustible bedding.
  3. Ensure heat lamps are installed in locations where they are far enough from any combustibles to preclude ignition.  Remember that wooden construction elements will eventually dry out and ignite from a heat lamp too.
  4. Ensure the installation is secure and the light cannot be knocked down.
  5. Run cords in locations where animals cannot reach them. Make sure cords are complete and not frayed.
  6. Make sure electrical circuits are not overloaded.  Heat lamps use more amperage than regular lights.
  7. Keep all combustibles away from heat lamps and ensure kids doing chores are aware of the hazards.
  8. Check the lamp and mounting periodically to ensure it is secure.

heat lamps

Are heat lamps worth it? 

To me, they are not worth the time, trouble, expense or risk of losing everything being trapped inside.

The most important needs of new baby animals are:

  1. A warm shelter out of the wind.
  2. Clean bedding, such as straw or wood chips.
  3. A normal internal body temperature.
  4. A mother who nurtures, feeds, and snuggles them.
  5. A responsible producer who will watch to be sure needs are met during the extreme cold temperatures of winter.

I’ve saved more babies this year than ever before without the use of heat lamps.

But, I also know responsible producers who use heat lamps and watch them closely. The use of heat lamps is fine as long as a careful eye is kept on them.

[Tweet “Because it only takes one spark to have everything go up in flames. “]

What are your thoughts on the use of heat lamps? 

~ Much Love ~




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