Recognising Heat Stress in Cows (and what to do about it)

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

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. 

  • Soaking

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. 

Cow Brushes

Cow brushes are a relatively low cost way to improve animal welfare and promote correct cow traffic in your barn. While cow happiness may never be scientifically proven, US studies have shown that the simple addition of one or more cow brushes to your barn helps to increase cow health, cow comfort, animal welfare and overall performance.

The brush helps by increasing blood circulation while keeping the cows clean, busy and happy in their environment which, by anecdotal assumption, will lead to better milk production. A small investment could pay big dividends for your farm so call us today to arrange a quote.

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Hoof Trimming Chutes

Good cow health starts from the ground up. Maintaining hoof health in your herd is one of the most important, but often overlooked, factors in maximising your returns. Wet & sloppy conditions underfoot exacerbate hoof problems and can make your herd more susceptible to injury and microbial entry. From cracked hooves to foot rot, poor hoof health takes a toll on your livestock, no matter what the species.

Good nutrition and ongoing hoof care are the best preventative measures a farmer can take. Eagle Direct works very closely with Comfort Hoofcare – arguably the global leaders in good hoof health. We stock a range of hoof health products in our online shop but it all starts with the animal chute which we can deliver direct to your farm saving you time & money.

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Calf Pens

Your calves represent your future herd and future income. When a calf is born it does not have a developed immunity system so keeping these calves safe & healthy in the first 6-8 weeks of life is critical to ensure it can go on to become a healthy productive animal for many years.  Our calf pens or hutches give calves the perfect start to life allowing one to one bottle feeding several times a day, individual health monitoring and a degree of isolation while their bodies develop and outgrow the newborn susceptibilities.

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Barn Lighting

Research has shown that a well-lit barn can both boost your bottom line by reducing energy costs and increase milk production. The manipulation of day/night rhythm to achieve a longer-period of light can have significant positive effects not only on productivity but also on health and fertility. Studies out of the US & Europe found that a 16-hour “photo-period” boosted milk production by up to two litres per day more than cows on a natural 8-hour “photo-period”.

Sourcing suitable lights and optimising them for your farm is where Eagle Direct can help. We work with the leading suppliers from around the globe and have access to experts in barn lighting that assist all our customers to find the right solution for their enterprise. Drop us an enquiry today to discuss your requirements.

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Soaker Lines

In warm weather, cows adjust their behaviour and physiology in an attempt to cope with the heat load. Cows will seek out cooler microclimates or protection against the sun which will often reduces their lying and feeding times and can increase their respiration rates. Production losses and elevated body temperatures can occur and sometimes result in infertility.

Along with fans, soaker lines installed along feed bunks or bedding areas are a very successful way of bringing down cow’s body temperatures and ensuring their comfort. The frequency & location of spraying is an important factor to keep cows at the feed bunk longer and to ensure they are comfortable during rumination periods. Improved cooling translates to better milk production and healthier animals.

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Cooling Fans

Ventilation in barns, particularly where cows are tightly packed eg. holding yard/s, should always be considered a priority in any infrastructure planning. Good facility design will create the most effective air movement. Fans will then increase this air movement – moving warm air away from cows and creating air movement over the cow’s skin to enhance evaporative cooling through sweating during warm-hot days across Spring, Summer & Autumn.

Placement, angle and size of fans are all important considerations and will need to be taken into account when designing an improved cow cooling solution for your farm. Used together with soaker lines will have an even greater cooling effect for your animals. Call Eagle Direct today to discuss where your farm is currently at so we can assist you in designing a system that will maximise your investment from both a productivity and cow comfort standpoint.

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Silage Equipment

Silage rakes and facers can provide greater consistency in feed quality and ration composition for farmers handling lots of feed daily. Losses through mismanaged silage can easily mount up and with feed being such an expensive commodity, it’s a critical aspect of farming that you simply can’t afford to get wrong.

We all know that the less exposure silage has to air, the better preserved it will be. Silage facers, with their rotating beater, powered by a hydraulic motor, leaves a face that is still tight & even. Using a silage facer or rake avoids unnecessary wear & tear on other farm equipment eg. skid steer & bucket or tele handlers. Facers & rakes also ensure consistency no matter who is doing the job of getting the feed.

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Feed Mixers

Mixing feed has advantages for both the farmer and livestock, as uniformly mixed feed components provide better nutrition, improved feed efficiency and cost, and the opportunity to reduce wastage.

In dry times, when much of the feed is purchased off farm with higher costs, wastage and efficiency are even more critical. Improved nutrition benefits milk yield or weight gain, and contributes to animal health and fertility.

Eagle Direct works closely with Canadian based Loewen Manufacturing who are one of, if not the most trusted brand when it comes to manufacturing quality and reliable feed mixers. The Loewen Vertical & Horizontal Feed Mixers come in a range of sizes (12m3 to 60m3) with tandem or single axle undercarriage. If you’re considering investing into feed mixing equipment, make sure you talk to us so we can show you a Loewen mixer in action on farm.

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Feed Automation

Presenting feed to your livestock in such a way as to increase dry matter consumption and the production of milk while minimising associated costs is nirvana to the farmer.  At Eagle Direct we’ve done a lot of work with ValMetal and specifically their Pro-Feed 2020 which is a self propelled feed pusher which uses an auger to push the silage or hay back to the animals increasing odour and palatability.

A robust, waterproof controller with a 10’’ (254mm) touch screen is very easy to use and can save a heap on labour costs. The menu is simple and user-friendly – the feeder can also be controlled from your computer, tablet and cell phone; no matter where you are.

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Sand & Manure Separation System by McLanahan

McLanahan Sand & Manure separation systems are used to settle out and wash bedding sand, and can be set up in multiple ways depending on the type of manure conveyance system on the dairy. In some cases, the sand-laden manure from the alleys is loaded directly into the separator, where bedding sand is settled out and washed. On a dairy where flush water is used to move the manure and sand bedding, the separator is used to wash the sand after it has been settled out either in a McLanahan Channel System or scooped from a sand lane. In all cases, the Sand-Manure Separator produces a clean, reusable sand bedding product with minimal organic content, suitable for reuse as recycled sand bedding.

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The US Farm Systems Separator Screens come in several sizes ranging from 5′ X 6′ to 8′ X 12′. The appropriate size is selected based on the type of waste being separated and rate processing requirements; Eagle Direct can help you find the perfect combination to process your waste water and manure efficiently and economically. Our v-wire screens come with a wide range of opening spacing, 0.010” to 0.060”. Moisture contents of 85% are attainable for separated solids with a separator screen alone.

Waste water and manure screen separator are not only useful at dairies, they perform in a variety of situations and waste materials.

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