It can be a challenge to meet the nutrient requirements of dairy cattle during heat stress. This subject garnered a good share of attention during a symposium at the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association, held July 15-19, in conjunction with four other animal science societies.

During the symposium, Greg Bethard, a dairy nutrition consultant based in Wytheville, Va., outlined goals that are important to keep in mind during heat stress:

  1. Maintain rumen health, rather than try to cram extra energy into the diet.
  2. Minimize pregnancy loss. Take a long-term perspective. The effects of heat stress are not limited to a two- or three-month window in the summertime. Think about how heat stress affects reproductive performance nine months down the road.
  3. Keep cows as comfortable as possible. This is an obvious goal, but the importance of cow comfort and heat abatement can’t be stressed enough.
  4. Minimize dry matter intake loss. Keep intakes consistent with good bunk management.
  5. Minimize body condition score loss. Feeding fat is a strategy that can help with this.
  6. Increase glucose precursors without breaking rule #1 above.
  7. Minimize sorting. Sorting becomes a bigger issue during heat stress.
  8. Don’t crowd close-up and fresh cows.
  9. Minimize lock-up time.
  10. Rethink the size of your transition facilities to accommodate changes in calving distribution that result from heat stress.

To read Bethard’s abstract #192 from the meeting, click here.