Summer is officially here! From hot, sticky days to cool and breezy nights, it is important to keep your herd cool and stress free so they stay productive. Cows can eat anywhere from 30-40 thousand calories a day. Most of that gets fermented in the cows’ rumen by bacteria, which gives off mass amounts of heat. Cows are most comfortable in temperatures ranging from 45-50 degrees. Once temperatures rise to above 68 degrees, cows will start to feel stressed due to the heat.
Shade – If your herd spends anytime outside, have shade to offer them – whether natural or manmade. Dark cows especially are affected by being in direct sunlight for any length of time. Milk production can improve 10 – 20% according to studies of cows that had access to shade.
Diet – If it is an option for your herd, temporarily changing their diet for hot days may help cows to be less stressed. Lessening forage content in their ration will reduce the amount of fermenting in their rumen, which will in turn reduce the heat a cow produces. Extra minerals or concentrate in the ration can provide your herd with more healthy energy for their body to burn without stressing them out.
Fans – Having fan or openings for fresh breezes to come through is a great help on hot days. Circulating the air helps to cool the cows and ventilate the barn.
Mist/Sprinklers – A misting or sprinkler system is a highly efficient way to keep cows cool, especially when paired with fans. The system should be automated to spray for a short period of time, and then stop to allow the water to evaporate off of the cow before starting again. Being wet and having air blown on them will cool down a herd quickly and safely.
Water – On average, cows can drink around 25 gallons of water a day. In hot weather, that number can rise to 33 gallons or more. Be sure your herd has access to ample amounts of fresh and clean drinking water.
Stress Free – Hot weather on its own is enough to stress out a cow. Stressed cows lose their appetite, therefore lowering their milk production. Avoid moving or doing stressful activities with your herd on hot days, they are already uncomfortable because of the weather.
Crane, Donna. “Keeping Cows Cool as Temps Heat Up.” KQED
Fetrow, John. “Keeping Cows Comfortable in the Summer Heat.” Midwest Dairy Association
“Tips for Keeping Cows Cool in Summer.” Farm and Dairy