Feeling the heat

Kate Fransen, Te Awamutu

We all know how draining it can be working all day in the hot sun with no shade, and we’re not the only ones who have to deal with this! Minimising heat stress in our cows is an important aspect to boosting production which is often overlooked. A hot cow will eat less, produce less, experience a decrease in milk fat and protein percentages, and spend less time lying down and ruminating. Heat stress occurs when a cow’s heat load is greater than her ability to lose heat, which usually requires temperatures over 23 degrees and relative humidity of at least 80% - conditions that we have been experiencing unusually early this year! She will cope with this by breathing faster or with an open mouth, standing in water or next to troughs, crowding, and avoiding eating, ruminating and lying down. If you’re noticing these signs in your herd, it’s time to put some measures in place to try and minimize this.

WATER is all-important! Lactating cows will usually require more than 100L per day. Water should ideally be available on the walk to the dairy and back to the paddock. Don’t push cows if they stop to have a drink – it may be annoying, but it’s necessary. Reduce walking speed and distance, and if you’re still on twice a day, consider pushing afternoon milking out to catch the cooler hours.

FEED with a high fibre content increases the rate of fermentation in the rumen, increasing the heat load the cow has to cope with. If possible, feed supplements in the evening rather than the heat of the day. This should increase feed utilization too.

SHADE is crucial. One of the old arguments against trees in paddocks is that cows will spend all their time camped out under the trees instead of eating. In reality, cows with no shade will spend just as much, if not more, time standing around not eating due to the heat. Although trees will take a long time to be of any use once planted, it’s a good idea to future-proof your farm. Future cows will be thankful for it if these long hot summers become the norm! Another good idea is to install shade-cloths over the yard or even fan systems for cooling. Fans are a good idea if sprinklers are being used. Sprinklers can actually increase the humidity amongst cows when they’re held close together, and the removal of water vapour via a fan will reduce this effect. Many farmers have experienced success with fan systems and think the benefits of having comfortable cows in the shed far outweigh the costs of installing the system.

If you have any questions about how else to help the girls through the summer, give us a call, we’re happy to help!


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