Have a Comprehensive Plan to Beat Heat Stress

Written by: Daniel Kohls, P.A.S. - Form-A-Feed Nutrition and Production Specialist

Even though hot summer days seem weeks away, now is the time to start protecting your herd against heat stress. Cow comfort, cow behavior, and grouping issues exacerbate themselves when heat stress is added to the mix. Lower milk production, poorer reproduction, elevated somatic cell count (SCC), increased lameness, and increased cull rate can all be magnified by heat stress events — as they happen and long after the heat has passed. This makes a well-designed plan a high priority for every dairy.

Auditing your dairy for heat stress preparedness and making appropriate changes are highly profitable practices. Areas to review in your dairy should include, but are not limited to:

  • Water quality and availability
  • Shade access
  • Air quality
  • Wind and ventilation
  • Parlor and holding area cooling
  • Evaporative cooling equipment such as sprinklers
  • Fly control
  • Nutrient balance
  • Hydration therapy strategies

The use of our Heat Stress Risk Snapshot is an easy to use tool to assist with preparing your dairy for the summer.

Our comprehensive research survey following the summer of 2011 sheds light on the most significant impacts on dairy performance in the face of summer heat events, and highlights the interventions associated with the greatest impacts on milk production.  (read the white paper here).  Typically, reproduction is also significantly impacted during summer heat stress.  In 2016, a field demonstration highlighted the additional reproductive benefit of Hydro-Lac® being fed to fresh cows during the summer months, in addition to milk production benefits.  (See the summary here).  The impact on reproductive benefit of heat abatement strategies is greatly undervalued, as potential losses in reproductive efficiency greatly impact the bottom line of the dairy for months after summer is over.

This lingering effect of heat stress on the dairy long after the hot days have passed is especially evident in the areas of lameness, pregnancy rate, and milk production recovery. Dollars invested in heat abatement and hydration therapy have an ever-increasing return on investment long after summer is over, as the long-tail of summer heat stress financially impacts the dairy well into the fall.