Perhaps the easiest way to help to prevent heat stress or even to reduce heat stress in dairy cows is to find ways to keep the cows cool. The most practical ways to accomplish this goal are to group the cows in shade or to provide ventilation or a cooling system in their holding areas or in other areas where they generally spend a great deal of time, such as feeding areas.
Utilizing fans and sprinkler systems can be a highly effective way to keep your dairy cattle cool. Of course, this will require a significant financial investment while increasing your overall operating costs. As such, it may not be a very practical solution for your situation. A less expensive option – and still a very effective option – is to install a basic ventilation system. Side inlet ventilation and ridge outlet ventilation can go a long way toward increasing air flow and helping your dairy cows to stay cool.
If you are not sure about the quality of the airflow in your buildings, you can quickly and easily conduct a test with the help of a smoke cartridge. This will also help you to better determine what other physical improvements you can make to help increase the overall comfort of your dairy cows. You may be surprised to learn that research has found that an airflow of as low as 10 km per hour can reduce the respiration rates in heat stressed animals by as much as 50 percent. That makes it a change that is certainly worth making!
If you do not take the proper steps to help ensure your dairy cows do not become overheated, they may suffer from heat stress. If your cows suffer from heat stress, they will become lethargic and inactive. They may stand with their heads bowed and they may begin to pant in an effort to increase heat loss. Oddly enough, they may even move closer to one another and stand in tightly packed groups.
Not only is heat stress not good for the overall health of your dairy cows, but it is also not good in terms of milk production. To help reduce the heat load of your dairy cows while giving yourself the best chance of maintaining high production yields, you may need to increase the nutritional value of what you are feeding those cows that are experiencing heat stress. This is because low-quality food generates more heat as it ferments inside the rumen. High-quality foods digest faster and, therefore, result in less heat production.
Of course, you will also need to be careful with how you balance the diet of your cows, as an improperly balanced diet can also lead to digestive orders, such as displaced abomasums and acidosis. Clearly, taking steps to prevent heat stress is the more ideal approach to take with your dairy cows.
With the summer just around the corner, it is certainly a good idea to gain a better understanding of heat stress and how it affects dairy cows. As homeothermic animals, dairy cows must maintain a constant body temperature of around 101.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, they may experience heat stress and the complications that are associated with it.
As the owner of dairy cows, there are two main ways that your cows maintain the proper thermal balance. These include:
- Increasing Heat Dispersion: This is mostly achieved through evaporation with things such as panting and drooling. This increases the maintenance energy required for the cow, which means part of its production energy will be exerted toward thermal regulation.
- Limiting Heat Production: This involves reducing the cow’s activity while also making changes to its feeding pattern. This means your cattle may eat less roughage and become more selective about what it eats.
If your cattle fail to properly control their thermal balance, she may become heat stressed. As a result, her feed intake will decline, resulting in a reduction in milk production. Therefore, it is important for you to take steps to help your dairy cows with maintaining their ideal body temperature throughout the summer.
Heat-related illnesses are a major concern for horse owners in Arizona, particularly during the hot summer months. By gaining a better understanding of the various risk factors that are involved with heat-related illnesses, you will be better prepared to care for your horse and to take the steps necessary prevent these illnesses from occurring.
One of the key factors that will affect your horse’s susceptibility to heat-related illnesses is its level of fitness. A horse that is well-conditioned is less likely to be affected by heat than your average pasture horse.
The breed of your horse will also influence its sensitivity to heat. Certain breeds and body styles are less likely to be negatively impacted. A horse with a long, lean build who has more surface area relative to its overall mass will be able to naturally cool itself more easily than one that is stout and compact. As such, an Arabian or a Thoroughbred is likely to do better than a draft horse or even a pony.
Of course, temperatures are also a factor. Be sure to give your horse time to acclimate to the changing weather and try to avoid working your horse during the hottest times of the day. Keep in mind that humidity is also a factor, as high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating quickly. Thankfully, humidity is not usually a concern in the Arizona summer, but you should still monitor the overall heat index in order to determine if it is too hot too ride.
Thanks to the high Arizona summer temperatures, you may find yourself having to deal with heat-related illnesses in your horse. One such illness is heat stroke.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a condition that occurs when your horse’s temperature rises to more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit. At these high temperatures, the heat can actually interfere with the cellular process of your horse’s body. Therefore, if you do not intervene in some way, permanent damage or even death are possible.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke in a Horse?
Symptoms of heat stroke can be similar to those seen with heat exhaustion, such as excessive sweating, increased breathing and heart rate, lethargy and a slowed gait. Other signs include:
- Collapsing to the ground
- Mucous membranes that are unusually dark
- Muscle spasms
How Do I Treat Heat Stroke in My Horse?
If you suspect heat stroke with your horse, you should call your vet right away. In addition, you should take steps to cool your horse’s body immediately, such as using ice water to douse the horse’s body. You should specifically target the jugular veins that run along the side of your horse’s neck as well as the visible veins on the inside of the legs to achieve the most effective results.
Caring for a horse in Arizona can be particularly difficult in the summer due to the hot Arizona temperatures. Heat exhaustion is one heat-related issue that can develop. This potentially life-threatening condition occurs when a horse becomes weak and tired due to an increase in body temperature combined with dehydration. Some of the symptoms to watch out for with this condition include:
- Elevated body temperature, typically anywhere from 102 to 105 degrees
- Excessive sweating
- Increase in breathing rate
- Increase in heart rate
- Slowed gait
If your horse is showing any of these signs, it is important for you to get it out of the sun and into a well-ventilated area or in front of a fan. Hosing your horse down with cold water can also be beneficial. When using this method, you should use a sweat scraper to remove the excess water and then immediately repeat the process. This will help to keep the cold water consistently on the horse’s skin. If the water is left on the horse’s skin, it will warm up quickly and be less effective.
Of course, you should also allow your horse to periodically drink small amounts of water, too. You can allow your horse to drink as much as it likes once its vital signs are back down to near normal.
We all know that the heat can reach extreme levels in Arizona. Therefore, beyond providing water, shade and salt, you may need to take additional steps to keep your horse safe during more extreme temperatures. Here are some things that you might want to consider.
Bring the Horse In
During the hottest parts of the day, you may want to consider bringing your horse in to your shelter and possibly hosing them down in order to help keep them cool. If your horses are not taking advantage of the shade that is available, you may need to take this step to ensure they do not become overheated.
Set Up a Sprinkler System
Setting up a sprinkler system in your pasture area can also be helpful with keeping your horses cool. Obviously, you want to avoid oversaturation and creating problems with mud, but keeping it outside of your pasture/paddock fencing and setting it to periodically spray in the pasture can give your horses a much-needed cooldown.
Installing fans in your run-in area can also go a long way toward keeping your horses cool. Just be sure the cords are safely out of reach so your horses cannot become entangled or chew on the cords.
While providing your horse with fresh water and shelter may seem like obvious ways to keep it safe during the hot summer months in Arizona, there are a few other steps that you can take to further help prevent heat-related illnesses from developing. Here is a look at some more advanced options for helping your horse in the heat.
It is especially important for your horses to consume salt during hot weather periods. If you provide free-choice salt, you should monitor the salt to ensure they are eating at least 2 ounces per day. If they are not consuming enough salt on their own, you should add salt to their feed. Or, if you are not feeding grain on a regular basis, feed a small daily meal of soaked beet pulp or wheat bran with two tablespoons of added salt.
Monitor the Herd
If you have more than one horse under your care, you should also be sure to monitor them to ensure the older, weaker or less-dominant horses are not being chased away from the water and shade that you have provided. If so, you may need to take steps to separate certain horses in order to keep them all safe.
It may seem hard to believe, but the hot Arizona summers are right around the corner. Unfortunately, high temperatures can be dangerous to horses and other large animals. In some cases, it can even prove to be fatal. Therefore, it is never too early to start looking at ways to keep your horses and other large animals safe from the heat of the Arizona sun. To that end, here are some basics to keep in mind for your horses during the summer.
Provide Plenty of Water
Your horses and other large animals should have access to clean, cool water throughout the day and night. On especially hot days, you may need to change the water out more than once in order to ensure it is not boiling hot. Try to keep the water in a shadier area so it does not heat up too quickly.
Your horses and other large animals need to have access to plenty of shade opportunities during the hot summer months in Arizona. This shade may come in the form of trees, run-in sheds or full shelters.
While these tips may seem obvious, it important for you to take a close look at your setup to ensure there are no barriers or other issues preventing your horse or other large animal from accessing the water or the shade that you provide.
Just as shoes are designed to protect our feet, horseshoes are meant to help protect the hooves of your horses. Yet, whether or not your horse actually needs to wear these shoes is a subject of great debate.
Keeping the Hooves Protected
Horseshoes originally became popular as a way to protect the hooves of domesticated horses in inhospitable climates. They were also thought to be beneficial for certain breeds of horses, as some have a tendency to have weaker hooves. Yet, while the center of a horse’s hoof is very sensitive, the outside does not feel pain. In fact, it is much like the nails that humans have on their fingers and toes, but the material on the horse’s hoof is much thicker.
To Shoe or Not to Shoe
Under normal conditions, most horses do not need to wear shoes. In this case, the horse is referred to as “barefooting”. Some do believe, however, that shoes should be in place if the horse participates in certain activities that can put their hooves at risk. Those who are against using horseshoes, however, maintain that even serious hoof problems can be treated with the proper trimming of the hoof and without the need for shoes.
The bottom line is that the decision should be based on the needs of the individual horse, so discuss it with your vet and your farrier to determine whether or not horseshoes are needed.