Sitting in my living room recently during a heat wave, I realized I think my tolerance for heat is somewhere close to that of a cow’s. After the temperature rises into the upper 70s, I’m feeling hot. If I don’t rest enough, drink enough water, eat three meals a day and stay out of the sun for some part of the day, I get headaches and I feel nauseous. Maybe that’s how a dairy cow under heat stress feels. Unfortunately, she can’t tell us how she feels when it’s hot, but she does have her own way of saying she’s uncomfortable. This issue contains articles describing how to recognize heat stress and adjust management techniques to minimize its negative effects.
I recently interviewed Greg Anema, a dairy producer from Chino, California, about his experience during last summer’s historic heat wave in California. Water, of course, was critical in keeping Greg’s cows alive. In his comments to me, he suggested a few tips to make sure all members of the dairy team stay cool and help cows stay comfortable this summer.
Air conditioning helps me get through July and August. If I were a cow, I’d be under the feedbunk misters for most of these two months. That spray must feel like a cold shower to a cow.
I can appreciate the relief such showers provide during the summer. One particularly hot, humid summer I took a shower without any hot water once a day to survive my apartment’s stale, warm air. I’d stand under the shower head until I was numb. Then I’d jump out, dry off and try to go to sleep as quickly as possible. Without the shower, sleep never came easy.
During the same summer, I discovered that feed, and especially water, intake were critical for feeling healthy.
Calves need the same thing, regardless of the temperature. The other half of this month’s issue contains information about raising heifers and calves. I believe calf and heifer raising takes just about as much innovation and adaptability as it does to keep cool in the summer.
I recently talked with David Porterfield of Hawarden, Iowa. David is the herdsman of a 750-cow dairy. But before his current position, he was the dairy’s breeding technician. Chasing heifers through Midwestern windstorms or trying to breed them through a chute in the winter made David look for a better way to beat the elements. When he joined the dairy team, he found a solution to the challenge in an old cattle feeder barn on the dairy.
It’s that kind of forward-thinking that can alleviate or quell the pounding headaches and churning stomach your cows may be feeling lately. PD