Heat stress on animals comes with a range of impacts including lower production (and therefore income) and decreased cow fertility, welfare and health that lasts well beyond the hot season.
Research shows that when the temperature around cattle exceeds 350C it results in reduced feed intake. If this rise in temperature continues, dry matter intake can decrease by 50% and stress levels will become significantly prominent amongst livestock. This decline in their food intake and increased stress levels will correspond with a decline in the quality of yield in which they are producing and be a contributing factor to decreased milk production, poor reproductive performance, increased incidences of mastitis and uterine infections along with various other health problems.
With heat stress being such a big problem with our hotter summers, there is an increasing demand for solutions within both the dairy and livestock industries.
The first step in reducing heat stress is building an understanding of the heat exchange processes and how temperature is affecting your cattle.
Conduction is the transfer of heat through direct contact. When hot cows want to avoid contact with one another. Where this is not possible we need to increase airflow to reduce the heat passed between animals.
Convection is the transfer of heat through actual movement of matter. Hot cattle will look for ways to cool themselves during hot days so again increasing airflow will significantly assist this process.
Radiation is the last way heat can be exchanged and is the emission of heat to and from a cow and its surroundings. Cattle will try and position themselves away from direct sun and hot objects eg. fences.
With this in mind, some possible solutions or improvements that can be considered include:
- Provide cattle more/easier access to clean drinking water e.g. installing additional troughs for summer. This will help reduce heat stress levels and keep cattle in paddocks longer to graze.
- Install shade structures. Providing your animals with a shade structure will provide them with a space they can enter on hot days, helping to reduce the heat stress but also being a place, they can go to escape rain and unpleasant weather during winter.
- Install a ventilation system. Airflow is so important – particularly where cows are crowded. Increasing air circulation helps to maintain healthy air supply while also bringing down the temperature. Fans can be installed to tilt, maximising the air that is being blown between and underneath cows enhancing whole body cooling. Systems can also be set up to be intertwined with sprinklers and even controlled through technology.
- The final recommendation to help reduce heat stress is to implement sprinkler or evaporation systems. They both encourage heat loss through the process of evaporative cooling and are effective in cooling large numbers in little time. Cooling just prior to milking for instance helps to lower breathing rates. If cows are cool after leaving dairies they will eat more over night.
By adopting one or more of these solutions for controlling heat stress, your farm stands to reap the benefits in productivity while your animals health and wellbeing is vastly improved.
Please call us @Eagle Direct if you want to discuss any aspect of cow cooling. #farmingforthefuture