ROME (Reuters) - Italian farmers are installing showers and air conditioning in cowsheds and pigsties to allow the animals to freshen up in the baking summer heat, an agriculture group said on Thursday.
Farm animals in Italy -- particularly in the muggy agricultural heartland around the Po river near Milan -- are under stress as the mercury approaches 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in the hottest July for more than a decade.
"The situation is worrying, particularly in the Po Valley which has the highest concentration of barns that have been kitted out with fans, small showers and air conditioners to cool down cows and pigs," farming group Coldiretti said.
Italian cows produced 50 million litres less milk than usual in the first 15 days of the month and chickens laid between 5 and 10 percent fewer eggs, the group said in a statement.
Coldiretti said conditions were set to get worse with the arrival of an anticyclone weather phenomenon known as "Charon", named after the ferryman of Greek mythology who steered the deceased across the river separating the worlds of the living and the dead.
Perspiring pigs are also suffering, Coldiretti said, adding that they lose their appetite in temperatures above 28 degrees and start eating up to 40 percent less than usual.
Anti-humidity measures have been taken and drinking trough systems are working overtime to give some of the thirsty beasts up to 140 litres of water a day, compared to the 70 they drink in cooler weather.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Ros Russell)