dairy cattle free stall shed enclosed with openings operating

The ability to open ends and sides allows for ventilation options

The Effect of Heat Stress on Cows

Cows are able to regulate their own body temperature to a certain extent while there is a big enough difference between their own body temperature and the external temperature around them. As the external temperature increases, however, it becomes difficult for them to cool down and they eventually begin to suffer from heat stress.

This can have a whole list of unpleasant and costly effects. To begin with, the cows will require far more energy in order to try and maintain their temperature. Ruminating and chewing cuds decreases, as does the cows’ ability to digest their food properly.

This means nutrients are no longer absorbed efficiently, ultimately resulting in lower conception rates, increased risk of deaths in embryos or reduced weight and impaired health of calves and reduced milk production.

Milk production is not only affected extensively in quantity (with losses up to 40% in extreme conditions), but also in the quality of what little milk is produced. Protein and fat content of the produced milk will eventually be reduced, with fat content potentially suffering severely if ruminal acidosis occurs.

The cows’ health in general will suffer, as risks of ruminal acidosis, ketosis, laminitis and mastitis all increasing drastically. The overall damage and cost this can incur for a dairy farm can be significant, to say the least.

How to combat Heat Stress effectively

fans and misters - sprinklers operating keeping cows cool

Fans and sprinklers taking the edge off the heat

This kind of heat stress on cows can be avoided by providing shade in the shape of steel shade shades over free stalls or feed pads. Placed correctly, bearing rain fall, direction of prevailing winds, etc, in mind, these steel constructions can assist effectively in preventing heat stress in cows and the resulting risk of diseases and loss of milk productivity by minimising heat gain through exposure to sun radiation.

The effect of the steel sheds can be further improved by adding sprinkler systems and fans. These fans are not cheap, but considering the cost heat stress will incur, they are well worth installing.

The should be placed above sprinklers and installed with their back to prevailing winds. In order to cool cows effectively, they need to be facing downward, so the cool air can circulate around the cows, assisting them in maintaining their body temperature. The sprinklers will assist in this purpose by getting the cows wet and so producing an evaporating cooling effect.

Mr Armbruster, dairy cattle free stall shed barn

Very happy with the results, Mr Armbruster

The disadvantage of using fans is the fact that the steel shed will have to be erected close enough to a power supply, and the cost of running fans will also have to be considered. It is naturally advisable to purchase fans with the best possible energy ratings.

Steel shade sheds can and will prevent a great deal of distress for both the cows and the farmer owning them. While the initial outlay may be high to begin with, it will repay itself through continually high milk production and healthy cows even throughout the long, hot summer months.

Getting expert advice on which type of shed to select and where to place it to achieve the maximum cooling effect for cows will ensure that the investment will not be wasted.

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