Beat the Summer Heat!

Sunshine, warm weather, green grass, blue skies, flowers, butterflies… What’s not to like?
Fans help this herd
beat the heat while they eat!
Well, if cows could talk, they’d have no problem answering that question. Hot summer months often take a toll on herd health, reproductive performance, and milk production as cows struggle to beat the heat. However, by adjusting their rations, feeding habits, and dairy environments, producers can help improve cow comfort and lessen the impact of heat stress.
Ration Formulation: boost energy, protein, and minerals.
·         Boosting energy is not as simple as just adding more corn – diets high in fermentable carbs can lead to rumen acidosis. To meet energy needs while maintaining rumen health, add other high-energy sources to the ration, like cottonseed or bypass fat.
·         Feed a high-quality fiber to help stimulate rumination and maintain rumen health. Plus, low-quality forages require more energy to digest, causing greater heat production.
Increase levels of alkaline minerals.
·         Alkaline minerals such as potassium and sodium help diminish many of the negative effects of heat stress, including rumen acidosis and DMI decline.
·         Cows lose potassium faster when under heat stress through increased perspiration and urination. Adding high-quality potassium carbonate to a cow’s ration helps her transition better during the summer heat, maintain DMI, and experience better herd health and performance.
Feeding Habits
·         Feed smaller meals throughout the day to help control acid levels in the rumen, which may reduce heat production during digestion.
·         Feed during the coolest times of day as cows will consume more dry matter and will experience rumen fermentation before the hottest part of the day.
·         Keep feed cool to prevent changes in palatability and composition. Consider placing shades over the feedbunk.
·         Push/clean out bunk more frequently to stimulate eating and discard old, possibly spoiled, feed.
·         Provide ample, clean waterers with sufficient water pressure. Make water available at parlor exit lanes as cows are the thirstiest right after milking.
·    Install shades to avoid direct sunlight.
·    Promote air movement with tunnel-ventilation systems, natural air flow, and/or fans.
·    Use misters or soakers alongside fans for evaporative cooling.
Sources:  “Feeding a top performer to beat the summertime heat” article by Elliot Block.
         Progressive Dairyman, July 8, 2008 issue.
         “Eight tips to minimize heat stress: An interview with Elliot Block.”
         Progressive Dairyman Dairy Podcast, 5/10/11

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