Five ways to beat the summer heatPrint
By Kayla Jentz
It’s that time of the year again, the “calm before the storm” that we call summer heat. For us it’s easy to go to the thermostat and kick on the A/C or get the reliable, old window unit out, but for cows it’s not quite that simple. We can all picture that heat stressed cow, rapidly panting and extremely uncomfortable.
While we can’t avoid the summer heat altogether (though sometimes we wish we could), there are many ways to provide heat abatement for your cattle. At the Central Plains Dairy Expo in March, Tom Bailey, a veterinarian with Elanco, discussed some of those strategies. We talked with Bailey after the conference about things producers should be doing now to prepare for the summer heat wave.
Bailey recommends providing diets for adequate electrolyte replacement. Just as humans drink electrolytes in times of extreme heat or physical activity, your cows should be provided with glucose precursors in the diet. When cows are heat stressed dry matter intake is depressed, and they stop mobilizing fat thus creating more internal heat. Cows begin diverting glucose away from the mammary gland, accounting for a large portion of milk production loss, and utilize that glucose for energy as it generates less internal heat.
As soon as possible, have all fans cleaned, power washed and ensure that they are in good, working order. Make sure that the grill and blade are free of debris and that the fan is mounted correctly. Bailey says that dirty fans can reduce airflow by as much as 50 percent. He also advises that fans be at a 15-18 degree tilt to blow air on the animals, and that fans should begin blowing at 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure control boxes for soaking cows are set to start at 68 degrees as cows can undergo heat stress at a heat index of 68. The heat index is based on temperature and humidity, and charts specifically for cattle are available to determine the cattle heat index in your climate.
Complete maintenance on soaker lines to determine if they are functioning properly. Detect and fix any breaks in the line.
- Make sure that you’re providing enough fans and soakers in the holding pen as it is the most hostile environment on the farm.
Bailey also stresses the need for adequate cooling measures not only in the holding pen, but also the close-up pen, fresh group, transition cow pen and the high-producing group. Bailey adds that these are “in no order of priority as they are all a first priority.”