Considerations for cow cooling this year

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Despite the current low temperatures, now is the time for farms to start thinking about summer cooling for their cattle.

While heat stress in dairy cows may not be at the forefront of anyone’s mind with frost still in the ground, it is important to start thinking about the upcoming warm seasons.

Experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program, says preparing for warm weather now can help farms prevent losses in milk production and keep cows comfortable in 2021.

Cows, especially dairy animals, are much less tolerant to heat than humans. They are uncomfortable and can experience heat stress beginning at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

To help keep cows cool farms provide shade, fans, and spray water. Best practice is to provide these in both the holding area of the milking parlor, and in the home pen where cows spend their time eating and resting.

Farms should use the coming weeks to perform any necessary repairs to cooling equipment and do a thorough cleaning of fans and sprayers, as dust easily builds up and reduces energy efficiency of these technologies. If farms are upgrading or installing additional cooling equipment, now is a perfect time so cows can benefit from the upgrades throughout the entire 2021 season.

Additionally, farms should ensure they are providing adequate cooling to all ages and classes of animals on the farm, including calves, heifers, and dry cows.

Recent work out of the University of Florida has emphasized the importance of providing heat abatement to non-lactating animals on the farm. Providing shade, fans, and spray water to these groups of animals will promote profitability and increased milk production in your herd across multiple generation.

The University of Florida’s work shows that cows pass the negative effects of heat stress on to their offspring and will produce less milk during their lactation if they experience increased heat load in the dry period. Further, their work shows that in New York State the dairy industry loses nearly $40 million per year from heat stress.

These losses are a result of decreased milk production, fertility, lameness, and feed intake, which all highlight the importance of cooling cattle and the economic benefits of installing fans and sprayers.

Opportunities exist to improve cooling and its efficiency on farm by providing supplementary heat abatement, especially to dry cows, heifers, and calves.

As farms prepare for the warmer months ahead, take the time to check all cooling equipment is functioning properly for each age and class of animal on the farm.

SWNYDLFC is a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben counties.