Managing heat stress

With summer fast approaching, it’s important to remember the negative impact that heat stress can have on cows’ milk production and fertility.


The ideal ambient temperature for cows is between 5°C and 25°C. Exposure to temperatures above this range will cause heat stress, and trigger self-regulating behaviours in cows such as panting and drooling. It’s vital that producers put plans in place now to help their cows manage the hot, humid weather during the summer.

To encourage high feed intakes during periods of hot weather, producers should consider feeding between 60% and 70% of the herd’s ration during the coolest parts of the day, which is typically between 8pm and 8am. Increasing the energy density of the diet and providing high-quality, easy-to-digest forages can also help to maintain intakes and avoid dips in herd performance.

Grazing herds should be provided with plenty of shade, and producers could consider bringing cows inside during the hottest period of the day. Adequate ventilation in cow housing is also essential. Open or protected ridges and increased numbers of air inlets all improve airflow within buildings. Fans also help keep air moving through buildings, particularly in high-traffic areas such as the collecting yard.

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