Start planning for heat stress

The arrival of spring means producers will be hoping for prolonged periods of drier, warmer weather. But it’s important to remember that with higher temperatures comes an increased risk of heat stress.

Dairy Nutrition
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The ideal ambient temperature for cows is between 5°C and 25°C. If cows are exposed to temperatures above this they will begin to show signs of self regulating behaviours – such as drooling and panting – to try and cool themselves. Just a small increase in temperature, coupled with higher humidity, can lead to heat stress in dairy cows, resulting in reduced milk production and fertility problems.

Now is a good time to start planning how heat stress will be managed on dairy units during the next few months. Some mitigation strategies include altering feeding times to cooler times of the day, typically between 8pm and 8am, as well as increasing the energy density of diets to compensate for lower feed intakes during periods of hot weather.

Including easy-to-digest forages in the diet and providing plenty of ventilation for housed cows, via open or protected ridges or fans, to help improve airflow through sheds will also help.

If cows are out grazing there must be access to shade, either natural or constructed. Cows should also be brought inside during particularly hot weather, or during the hottest parts of the day.

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