Beat the Heat: Strategies for Cow Comfort During Summer
Published on Tue, 04/18/2023 - 12:36pm
Beat the Heat: Strategies for Cow Comfort During Summer.
Article provided by Central Life Sciences.
The summer months have arrived, and for most producers, those hot summer temperatures have already made their presence felt. These raised temperatures are responsible for causing heat stress in cattle. Heat stress can result in a variety of health problems, from decreased breeding efficiency and lower milk production to unhealthy weight gains and sometimes death. Promoting cow comfort during this time is key for the short and long-term health of your operation. Read on to learn the signs of heat stress and tips for cooling cows and minimizing the impact of flies during the summer heat.
1. Ensure proper bedding
This is essential in relieving both heat stress and the number of flies surrounding your cattle. Dry bedding will decrease fly gatherings by providing fewer damp conditions for them to gather and lay eggs. It also helps keep your cows’ coats clean, eliminating another spot where flies commonly rest.
Proper bedding also ensures your cows remain well rested, which means they are more likely to stay on feed and maintain quality milk production. Inspect their bedding area to look for spills, decaying straw, and manure. Also consider using sand for deep-bedded stalls, as it’s able to conform to the cow’s body and reduce bacterial growth.
2. Provide additional clean water
The average dairy cow drinks up to 50 gallons of water per day. That number nearly doubles during the hot summer months. As their water intake naturally increases during summer months, it’s paramount for producers to provide additional water supplies to accommodate them. Make sure that each water source is clean and contaminant-free, as any excrement found in a watering tank will prevent your cattle from consuming it. Operators can keep their water cool and in line with cattle preference by making sure all water lines are covered by grass in the fence rows. It’s already hard enough for cattle during the summer. Make sure they’re getting enough water to eliminate any unnecessary discomfort.
3. Provide proper shade and ventilation
During the summer months, providing proper shade is essential. This can be easily provided by allowing access to open buildings and pasture with trees. If your cattle are already housed in an enclosed barn or building, maximize air flow by making sure all fans are working properly to move air throughout the building, or open the sides of the building to provide access to pasture with shade or an outdoor pen. A rule of thumb is to provide 20-to-40 square feet of shade per head to mitigate overcrowding.
Another potential solution could be using sprinklers, which can decrease animal body temperature as well as the ground temperature. To maximize the cooling effect, use sprinklers either early in the morning or overnight to help them cool down before the heat of the day begins. It’s also important to only use sprinklers in areas with good air circulation, as sprinklers can increase humidity and incidentally add more stress to cattle.
4. Feed cows when it’s cool
Cows don’t eat as much when they’re hot, so one easy way to maintain their diets during summer heat is to adjust feeding times toward the cooler portions of each day. The rule of thumb is to offer approximately 70 percent of their daily feed after peak daytime temperatures if you’re feeding your cattle at least two times per day. This will also ensure the heat generated from feed digestion will occur during the cooler part of the day. It’s also encouraged to increase the number of times feed is pushed up to minimize sorting. Every bit of relief helps your cattle get through the hot months. Make sure to plan a feed schedule that accounts for the temperature too.
5. Make sure flies don’t add to the stress
Cattle already have enough to worry about during the scorching summer months. Make sure flies aren’t adding to their agitation. Flies bite, annoy and cause pain to your herd. Reducing fly populations on farms not only increases cow comfort, it also drastically reduces the spread of disease pathogens.
Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) plan can ensure you seize control of these damaging pests, making the summers a little less stressful for your cattle.
6. Keep your barn clean
One of the most important steps in a successful IPM plan is maintenance. Give your barn a clean sweep regularly to provide a clean, comfortable, and fly-free living space for cows. Always keep a watchful eye out for any needed repairs and manage manure in a timely manner.
7. Use ClariFly® Larvicide to keep flies away
ClariFly® Larvicide is the ideal ally in your battle against flies. This feed additive prevents house flies, stable flies, face flies, and horn flies from developing in and emerging from cattle manure. Unlike conventional insecticides that attack the nervous system of insects through direct toxicity, ClariFly® Larvicide works by interrupting the flies’ life cycles, preventing flies from maturing. When mixed into livestock feed, ClariFly® Larvicide passes through the animal’s digestive system and into the manure.
Proper fly control plays a pivotal role in cow comfort. While you might not be able to control the temperature, you can ensure your cows enjoy a cool, comfortable, and fly-free environment.
Signs of Heat Stress in Cattle1
Stage 1: elevated breathing rate, restless, spend increased time standing
Stage 2: elevated breathing rate, slight drooling, most animals are standing and restless
Stage 3: elevated breathing rate, excessive drooling or foaming, most animals are standing and restless, animals may group together
Stage 4: elevated breathing rate, open mouth breathing, possible drooling, most animals standing, animals may group together
Stage 5: elevated breathing with pushing from the flanks, open mouth breathing with tongue protruding, possible drooling, most animals standing and restless
Stage 6: open mouth breathing with tongue protruding, breathing is labored, and respiration rate may decrease, cattle push from flanks while breathing, head down, not necessarily drooling, individual animals may be isolated from the herd.
For more information, visit CentralFlyControl.com.
1 USDA’s Agricultural Research Service
ClariFly is a registered trademark of Wellmark International.