The dog days of summer are here and most Virginia dairies are starting to calve heavily leading into base time. It is common to see poor reproduction, increased somatic cell counts, reduced milk production, and an increase in the number of cows that need intervention for health issues during summer months. Here are simple steps that can be taken to minimize the effect of heat stress on your herd without major facility changes:
Water is the key to heat abatement. If you do not have sprinklers in your barn, consider installing them at least in your holding pen or exit lane from milking. Be sure to have plentiful, clean water accessible immediately when exiting the parlor, as well as in all barns.
Make sure that fans are clean and functioning properly. Shade cloths can also help with cooling.
Feed intake drops in the heat, so adjust the ration to maximize forage quality during summer months. This reduces acidosis and supports production. Mix feed twice daily if possible to avoid spoilage and keep the feed bunk shaded.
Don’t forget your dry cows! Provide plentiful shade and water. Heat stress during the dry period leads to early calvings, increased transition issues, and decreases conception rate and production in the next lactation.