Summer is near and the weather is warming up. The rising temperatures can be dangerous for your herd, putting them at risk for many issues including heat stress, summer mastitis, metritis, ketosis, and reduced nutrient intake. All of which can reduce milk production and milk fat percentage.
There are several ways that you can help cool down your herd and manage their risk. These include:
- Water. Making sure that your dairy cows have plenty of fresh, clean water will help them to cool down. A good rule of thumb is about 2 gallons per 100 pounds of body weight in the hottest weather. Lactating cows will also drink nearly twice as much as dry cows.
- Shade. Provide a dry, cool place for your cows. Providing shade can reduce heat load by up to 50%. Shade can be provided by trees, buildings, or structures. Try placing any structures north to south to allow the shade to move east to west with the sun, helping to keep the resting area dry and cool all day long.
- Fans. Fans help to remove radiant heat. Make sure to choose fans that are large enough and space them across your barn to create a good airflow in all areas.
- Sprinklers and Misters. Sprinklers and misters can be used to cool the cows down when it is very warm. In combination with fans, they help to create evaporation to cool the air down. Be careful to avoid overdoing it and soaking the area which can increase moisture and lead to other problems.
- Dietary Changes. Heat can affect your cow’s appetite, but it important they maintain their energy levels. Giving feed in shaded areas and avoiding feeding during the hottest part of the day can help. You can also consider using a high-quality rumen-protected fat supplement to maximize the energy density of your feed and reduce the heat generated by digesting forages and high-fiber food.
- Reduce Stress. Try not to overwork your herd by limiting moving, sorting, and transporting and avoid giving vaccinations on extremely hot days. Anything that can add stress to the cow can make a difference between a cow that is coping with heat stress and one that is pushed over the edge.
- Modify Milking Times. Milking your herd during the hottest part of the day adds unnecessary risk. Modifying your milking times can help keep your cows cool and comfortable. Shoot for early morning and later in the afternoon.
Make sure that you are your staff are up to date on the signs of heat stress and have an emergency plan in place in case of extremely hot days. Closely monitoring your herd and managing their exposure to the extreme heat of summer is vital to maintaining the health of your herd and your profit.