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.
Different genotypes of beef cattle have different characteristics associated with their zone of comfort. Overall, Bos Indicus breeds and their crosses have a better heat regulatory capacity than Bos Taurus breeds. This is largely due to their differences in metabolic rate as well as differences in food and water consumption, their sweating rate and differences in coat characteristics and color.
Visible Signs of Heat Stress
A number of visible signs are associated with heat stress. These include:
- Decreased Activity
- Increased Drinking
- Increased Urination
- Open Mouth Breathing
- Reduced Eating
You may also notice your cattle bunching in any shaded area that is available or aligning themselves with the sun if there is no shade. Alternatively, your cattle may begin bunching around water troughs or they may refuse to lie down. On the other hand, they may become unresponsive or become agitated and restless. Slower growth rates may also occur and even death if the heat stress is allowed to continue.
If you see signs of heat stress in your cattle, it is important to take steps to help reduce the heat load so your cattle are not adversely affected. This may include providing additional shade or water or even using fans to help cool them down.