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:
- Maintain rumen health, rather than try to cram extra energy into the diet.
- 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.
- 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.
- Minimize dry matter intake loss. Keep intakes consistent with good bunk management.
- Minimize body condition score loss. Feeding fat is a strategy that can help with this.
- Increase glucose precursors without breaking rule #1 above.
- Minimize sorting. Sorting becomes a bigger issue during heat stress.
- Don’t crowd close-up and fresh cows.
- Minimize lock-up time.
- 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.