Tag: Reducing Heat Stress

Tis the Season for Heat Stress

Dr. Paul Dettloff on protecting your livestock from the sun.

From conception to maturity, your cattle need protection from the hot summer sun.

“Anytime the air temperature reaches 85 degrees an animal will enter some heat stress,” notes Organic Valley staff veterinarian Dr. Paul Dettloff, considered one of the top holistic veterinarians in the country.

While black-hided animals are affected more quickly than white ones, high humidity combined with high temperatures can mean heat stress for animals of all colors. The result is decreased feed intake, reduced productivity, and profit losses.

Heat also plays a role in conception rates and fertility. After 35 years of practice, Dettloff knows when a cow bred in July is open in September, it’s probably linked to extreme temperatures. “You go back to that day in July and discover it was 94 degrees that day,” explains Dettloff. “With that high temperature, first service conception just falls off.”

Signs and solutions
Cattle don’t sweat like we do, so panting is a clear sign of stress.

“Once they start open mouth breathing and panting, you can bet they aren’t going to milk very good that day,” explains Dettloff, who encourages graziers of both dairy and beef cattle to provide shade for the health of their animals and to prevent production losses.

For those practicing rotational grazing, portable shade, such a Shade Haven mobile shade system, is critical for success. “Permanent shade in one spot in the pasture doesn’t work,” says Dettloff. “Movable shade is made for intensive rotational grazing.”

About Dr. Paul
Dr. Paul Dettloff is a consultant on sustainable agriculture, staff veterinarian for Organic Valley Coop in Wisconsin and Owner of Dr. Paul’s Lab, LLC. He has trained farmers across the U.S. on how to use natural products and is a frequent speaker at organic/sustainable conferences in the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Dettloff has authored “Alternative treatments for Ruminants” and the recently published “Musings of an old country vet”. Both are available at Dr. Paul’s Lab.  

Bring on the Shade for Stress-Free Cows

It’s summer. For humans that means time outdoors, vacations and lower stress. For dairy cows, it’s another story. When temperatures rise above 72 degrees, dairy cows are susceptible to heat stress, especially with full sun and high humidity. As we enter the hottest months of summer, water and shade are critical to reducing heat stress and keeping cows healthy and productive.

Heat stress raises a cow’s body temperature, which leads to less dry matter intake, resulting in weight loss and decreased milk production. The more productive the cow, the higher the risk of heat stress. A study by the University of Florida states, “Heat stress has been shown to reduce milk production by 25% by reducing feed intake and increasing health problems such as mastitis, lameness and reproductive delay.”

Less milk in the tank means less money in your pocket. Calculating just a 15% reduction with a 50-cow herd that averages 2,500 pounds of milk daily, equals a potential daily loss of 375 pounds of milk. Multiply that by 100 days – the average days in a year over 80 degrees – and you take a significant economic hit.

Provide the shade

Providing shade with Shade Haven mobile structures is an economical solution to reduce heat stress and boost productivity. Multiple studies confirm that providing shade for lactating cows increases their dry matter intake, leading to increased milk production.

“In Florida studies, shade alone improved milk productivity by 10% in two consecutive years,” notes another University of Florida IFAS Extension study, titled Feeding and Managing Cows in Warm Weather.

The same study states, “The maintenance needs for a 1,400-lb. cow producing 60 lbs. of milk is about 20% higher when the temperature is 95 degrees F as compared to 68 degrees F. This being true, it is easy to understand the impact of heat stress on high-producing cows in early lactation when energy intake is critical to her performance.”

The University of Wisconsin -Extension estimates Wisconsin dairies lose as much as $200 per cow annually because of heat stress. Dry cows and even calves can benefit from shade, too, with better weight gain, improved immune function and better production once they join the milking herd.

Shade Haven mobile shade structures are available in sizes up to 40 feet wide. They can be easily moved to provide shade where you need it, when you need it, for a stress-free summer for your cows.