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Keeping Cows Cool and Comfortable

When things get hot, we find ways to cool down. We fire up air conditioners, get wet, or get the air moving with fans. Our animals are no different. They feel the heat, and they want a break from it as well.

It’s a proven fact that when cows overheat, milk production goes down. It’s been proven time and again that severe heat stress in dairy cows can result in milk production loss of up to 25%. That is a quarter drop in overall milk production, so keeping your herd cool is imperative to keeping milk production up. There are a few different things that can be done to improve your herds comfort when the temperature starts to rise.

Have you ever been outside on a hot day and think…what I wouldn’t give for cold shower right now? When we sweat, we are using the moisture to draw the heat away from our skin. This same theory applies to cow cooling or misting systems. There are many out on the market today. At the farm where I worked, the misters were set up along the stalls, so that when the cows went to eat, they were “misted”. Be sure to use a system that uses water efficiently, but also uses enough water to penetrate the hide and reach the skin. It will then draw the heat away from the cow’s body, just like when we jump in a pool or take a cold shower. Our bodies are instantly cooled by the water drawing away the heat and this same theory applies to our animals.

Air movement is also critical. Stagnant air will feel hotter. Like the water drawing away the heat, so too can air movement. Fanning systems are a great way to help keep your herd cool and comfortable. There are also many systems out there, from your basic fans over the freestalls, to setting up a tunnel system where the air will actually be forced through the barn. When the air is moving, even in hot conditions, it can make a big difference in reducing heat stress in your herd.

Many systems combine these too main elements, water and air, using fans and sending a mist with the air to help reduce water waste while achieving the same or better results. It’s important to do your research first and find out what’s going to work best for your farm, and your herd.

Also, always have cool, clean water for your cows to drink. She needs to stay hydrated to help reduce heat stress, keeping her milk production high and at its best in hot weather.

What about calves?? They are no different when the heat kicks in. A few simple steps can be taken to help keep them cool and healthy as well. Besides methods mentioned above, there are a few small things you can do to ensure a calf’s comfort. Make sure they have clean, cool water to drink. Be sure that all pails are clean and sanitized after each use. If you need to handle the calves, consider changing the time of day when you do, opting for cooler parts of the day like early morning, or evening hours, and make sure shade is readily available. When a calf isn’t using all her energy to stay cool, she’ll be able to use that energy to grow and stay healthy.

With a few simple techniques your herd can stay cool and comfortable, and reducing heat stress will help keep milk production high even during the hottest times of year!

By Susan Glenzinski 07.2012

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