Heat stress in dairy cows is a serious issue. Maintenance of body temperature relies on balancing endogenous heat produced by the body with the temperature of the cow’s environment. Failure to do this can impact the health, lactation and reproduction of your cows, costing you time, money and the wellbeing of your animals. So what should you be looking out for in your herd?
Signs of Heat Stress:
There are six stages of heat stress in cows:
Stage 1: Cows are restless, spend more time standing and have an elevated breathing rate.
Stage 2: Cows begin drooling slightly and start grouping together.
Stage 3: Cows have excessive drooling and begin foaming at the mouth.
Stage 4: Cows breathe with their mouths open
Stage 5: Cows begin pushing elevated breathing from their flanks.
Stage 6: Cows are open mouth breathing with their tongue protruding, there is a decrease in respiration rate, heads are down, noticeable drooling and individual animals may be isolated from the herd.
Throughout all stages they remain restless, spend increased amounts of time standing up and have elevated breathing rates.
Impacts of Heat Stress:
Heat stress causes hyper activation of immune function which can cause long term damage to the animal. Persistent stress over a period of time causes immune suppression and increases blood cortisol concentration which inhibits the production of some cytokines. Cytokines are regulatory proteins that are used in a variety of processes such as tissue repair, stress, inflammation, immunity and embryonic development.
A lowered immune system makes cows vulnerable to diseases such as mastitis, ketosis and metritis, as well as having poor hoof health and problems with reproduction. Mastitis leads to higher somatic cell counts which impacts the quality of their milk, producing more bacteria and changing the taste and longevity.
Heat stress can impact the cow’s ability to conceive, and can result in early embryotic loss within the first few weeks. Two key studies have also shown that calves born to cows experiencing heat stress in later gestation have a higher chance of developing immune issues and heat stress themselves throughout their lives.
Cows should lie down for 10-12 hours a day to increase their milk production and improve udder function. Cows also rarely sleep while standing, and so need to be able to lie down to rest. Heat stress causes cows to remain standing, restricting blood flow and oxygen and increasing the risk of lameness.
Heat stress also impacts digestion, meaning that they’re not able to gain the proper nutrients, effecting milk production and quality. They also eat much less, leading to unhealthy weight loss.
What’s the Solution?
Eagle Direct has three simple solutions to help you avoid heat stress in your herd.
Shade is vital for your farm, and can be easily created by installing a barn. Eagle Direct designs custom barns, consulting with you on every step to make sure it caters to your needs. We make sure that your barn is right for the size, location and temperature, so your cooling system is as efficient and effective as possible.
High Pressure Fog (HPF) and Soaker systems are great at cooling down your cows. These systems can be installed where your cows spend their time, and reduce the humidity and overall temperature of your holding pens and resting areas.
- Air Flow
Proper barn design includes optimising air flow using fans and ventilation. Eagle Direct provides consultation and installation, making sure that your fans are positioned correctly and your cows are receiving all the benefits.
So give us a call today on 6394 6064 to get started! We provide free consultations on cow cooling systems and barn design, and are passionate and knowledgeable about cow health. You can also check out our free webinar to find out more about the signs and impacts of heat stress on cows.