Prepare your cows for summer heat

Posted: May 17, 2019

rumen health

Written by: Adam Fellbaum, Form-A-Feed Nutrition & Production Specialist

We all know that our cows become stressed in the summer heat and when they become stressed, it impacts our bottom line. There are long and short-term effects and the goal of every dairy producer should be to minimize these effects on their operation. Whatever kind of operation you may have, whether it is a brand-new free stall barn, an older free stall barn or a tie stall barn, all experience the effects of summer heat and humidity.   We can see anything from a drop in daily milk production, reproduction rates, milk quality, and even decreased peak milk which effects the entire lactation. All these cause a loss of revenue, which in today’s economy we need to minimize.  We all know that Mother Nature has not been good to us lately, battling wet field conditions and even a May snowstorm. Luckily for us there are things that we can do to prepare our cows to handle heat and humidity through the hot summer months.

Below are some tips to help with the summer heat.

  1. Fans
  • Fans are clean of dust and other debris.
  • The belts are tight and not worn. They lose efficiency as soon as the belts become worn. Even though the fan is spinning, but not as fast as it should be, it’s costing you the same to operate.
  • Thermostats are set to the right settings for summer months. A stepping up and down action is preferred especially for early and late summer when the day and night temperatures vary.
  • Make sure the fans are set to benefit the cows, not us.
  • Make sure to check the air movement where the cows are at. A lot of people will be walking in the feed lane and say the air is fine, but the cows are not there.  Air takes the path of least resistance, so for example, air speed tends to be faster in the feed lane with a tunnel ventilated barn.

2.  Sprinklers

  • Make sure they were not damaged/frozen during the winter months.
  • Sprinklers are mounted correctly to provide the right amount of water on the cows where you need it.
  • Water is in droplets of rain and timers are set for proper on and off.  The evaporation of the water is what cools the cow.

3.  Waterers

  • Have the correct water space available.
  • Waterers are clean and kept clean on a regular basis. In the summer, waterers will generally have to be cleaned more often than in the winter, as cow’s water intake will be up.
  • Check that waterers have good pressure to keep up with higher water intakes.

4.  Feed

  • Make sure that the feed is fresh, cool, and always accessible.
  • To keep feed cool and fresh you may have to add another feeding during the day.
  • Feeding in the evening can be very helpful.  Feed a higher portion of your feed in the evening as the cows will eat more as it cools off during the night.
  • Proper bunker or bag management helps to keep feed coming off the storage facility fresh.
  • If you will be feeding a new forage right away before fermentation is complete, treat it with an acid-based preservative such as Crop Cure instead of a microbial inoculant.  Another option is to treat the end of a bag with an acid-based additive such as TMR Stabilizer.
  • If problems with feed heating or reduced DMI occur, treat the whole TMR with an acid-based product such as TMR Stabilizer.

With the summer months soon approaching, making sure that all maintenance on summer equipment is complete will be a huge win. Also, have a plan in place to keep feed fresh and DMI intake up during the extreme summer heat.  These are big factors in the over-all success of keeping your cows on the right track during the summer heat and humidity that will be here soon. Please contact your local Form-A-Feed representative to help you come up with both feeding and facility strategies for the summer. Make sure your barns and feeding program are ready for what Mother Nature will throw at us this summer.  The time is now to look over your ventilation, sprinklers, waterers or your total summer feeding program. Form-A-Feed has several great proven summer heat products such as: TMR Stabilizer, Crop Cure, Hydro Lac and Hydro Shield.

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