Summer has finally hit Ohio. After a bitterly cold winter that never ended, we have been smacked in the face with heat and our trademark humidity. Not only are we miserable, but the cows are feeling it as well. A cow is not a small animal to get cool once she gets too hot. So we try our best to keep them as cool as possible once the temperature is on the rise.
Not only is controlling heat stress important for obvious comfort reasons for the cow, but it can effect many things. When a cow is too hot, she doesn’t eat. When she doesn’t eat, she will make less milk. Less milk production is not a goal on any dairy I have ever seen.
Heat stress also can reek havoc on fresh cows (cows that just had babies). Cows who are heat stressed at calving are more like to end up with a calving related illness. This means 1) she is going to feel like crud 2) she will more than likely end up on antibiotics, thus making her milk unmarketable for a period of time 3) produce less milk once we get her healthy again and 4) have more difficulties getting pregnant with her next calf. It is important to keep our very pregnant ladies cool and comfy.
Cows who are too hot don’t like to get pregnant with their next calf. If a cow doesn’t calve in regularly her milk production will suffer. When they’re too hot it’s hard to get them in “the mood”.
So you may be wondering, how does one keep a 1500 pound animal cool when it’s 90 degrees outside. Here are some practices we use.
Extra water. An easy way to keep cows happier in the warmer months is by having lots of fresh, clean water available. Cows like people need to stay well hydrated in the heat. We have two groups of cows. They each get extra watering tubs, tubs are also placed by the milking parlor exit. These tubs have automatic floats so they are always full.
This year, we did some barn “modifications” to allow for extra air movement in the barn. I can’t believe the difference it made. We now can open the side of the barn to let in more air. Some dairies barns have large screens with curtains that have the same effect.
Like people, cows enjoy the breeze of a good fan. We have several fans placed through out all the barns to keep a breeze on the girls. After all ladies don’t like to sweat!
Lastly and one of my personal favorites, we have a sprinkler system for the cows to enjoy. Many dairies implement sprinklers when it gets hot. Cows actually really like water. Sprinklers can be effective in many places. We currently only have one set and the cows walk thru them as the exit the parlor. They are also useful along feed bunks to mist cows while they eat and in holding pens where cows stand waiting to be milked.
Hopefully you, like our girls, are able to catch a break from the heat!
**With June being dairy month, if you have any questions on the dairy industry feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m keeping things strictly dairy this month to celebrate!**