As we move into longer and hotter days it's a good idea to keep in mind the changing needs of your herd. Heat stress can reduce population, fertility and milk. Here are 10 ways to keep your cattle herd cool this summer.
Water needs change each season. Stored hay and feed has less water and pasture grazing has a high moisture content. Even so, it's important to provide cattle access to feed and clean water at all times. For reference a mature lactating cow will consume more than 20 gallons of water in a day.
2.) Cooling systems:
Using evaporative cooling with exhaust fans, circulation fans is an easy way to keep the air moving and the cattle cooling. Equip barns with fans or a cooling system to minimize heat stress.
3. Sprinklers, soaker lines and misters:
Adding a sprinkler over a clean area of the barn can cool the area 10-15°. These can also be automated and can keep flies down as well since it makes it harder for them to fly.
4.) Additional venting:
Add ventilation to barns to provide more air flow. Keep the barn doors open and fans circulating. Overheating can cause stress, sickness and even death. Adding additional ventilation can help like ventilation in the tunnel and cooling cells.
5.) Moving day:
When working or moving your herd, remember to move them slowly - at their own speed, to minimize stress. Also, keeping vaccinations, sorting, and other changes to cooler days. Additional stress can be extreme for severely affected animals and can suppress the immune system .
Work cattle early in the morning or evening when it's cooler. Pay close attention for stress signs, especially in cattle with higher risk factors like ones that have not shed/long haired or were previously sick.
6.) Dietary considerations:
Adding minerals, high quality forage, some fats, and feeding them at specific times can be key to keeping them healthy. Cattle won't want to eat or ruminate during the hottest times of the day. Feed them when it's cooler and they will eat better.
7.) Minimal amounts in the holding pen:
Keep smaller amounts of cows in the holding pen. This will allow them to keep their temperature down, and have air circulate letting them keep cooler.
Shade not only keeps them cool on hot days but it could also help them avoid sunburn. They might not stay in the shade though because of flies or other environmental factors but it should be available. If you don't have trees or natural shade you can add shade tarps or netting for additional shade.
9.) Prevent pests:
Rotating between fly control methods is the best way to keep down the population and reduce damage and stress to your herd.
10.) High quality or low quality forage:
Providing high quality forage during heat stress helps them produce less heat during digestion. Offering high quality reduces the amount of heat load on the animal.
Extra tip: This isn't going to keep your cows cool but it's summer, don't forget to put up some hay for the winter.