One of the biggest problem faced by dairy farmers each year is dealing with the summer heat as this will affect the cows health and milk production. Generally, cows will be less inclined to eat if they are miserable in the summer heat. Hence, dairy diets need to be reformulated to increase nutrient density to compensate for lower feed intakes.
Water Supply And Keeping Cows Cool
It is crucial to ensure that your cows have unlimited supply of cool and clean water throughout the summer.
Water is the single most important item that will help reduce heat stress and milk production losses when it is hot and humid.
It is also encouraged to have good air movement with the use of fans.
Avoid overcrowding the cows in pens or feeding areas whenever possible.
If the cows spend a lot of time out of the barn, make sure they have adequate supply of water and provide them with shade to get them out of direct sunlight for part of the day.
Here are some other facts to consider regarding environmental heat stress:
Cattle sweat only 10% as much as human.
If the temperature of the cows' environment is over 25°C and humidity is over 30%, swift action needs to be taken to cool things down.
When temperature of cows' environment is over 25°C, the cow's feed intake will decrease by approximately 8 - 12%.
If the cows are panting, it will increase the cow's maintenance requirement by 20%.
The main feeding challenge during summer is to maximise the energy intake while maintaining ration fiber levels and rumen health at the same time. It is often difficult to maintain a balanced ration due to:
Feed intake drops.
When the weather is hot, the cows prefer grain instead of roughage which will cause rumen acidosis.
Often times, forage quality varies.
Here are some nutritional tips to help manage nutrition during heat stress:
It is important to feed high quality forages but ensure that the physically effective non-detergent fiber is over 20% or the rumen health will be affected.
Provide most of the ration during the night or when it is cool.
Add extra water to the TMR ration, silage or hay if DM intake drops significantly. This will encourage the cows to eat more.
When dry matter intake decreases, adjust both energy and protein densities.
If the goal is to increase caloric density of ration, feed rumen bypass fat as opposed to increasing starch or tallow.
Studies have shown that feeding yeast product will improve fiber fermentation and dry matter intake.
It is encouraged to feed ensiled feedstuff more often to compensate for shorter bunk life during hot weather to avoid heating and spoiling.