Editor's note: The follow article was originally published on Alltech's blog celebrating new ideas in science and business.
It is estimated in 2003, the United States dairy industry lost $897 million due to heat stress related issues. How can an industry lose this much money to a climate change, how can we combat it, and can you imagine all of the positive things that could have been done with $897 million?
What changes can we make, and where do we start?
Dr. David Kelbert, a veterinarian out of North Central Florida, where 70 percent humidity and 90 degree temperatures are quite common, works hard to keep cows healthy and efficient, while also specializing in beating heat stress and keeping herds cool.
Dr. Kelbert lists five considerations when assessing your dairy operation for heat stress:
- Focus on two areas: Cow comfort and nutrition.
- Evaporative cooling: This process involves cooling the cow by using the heat from the cow’s body to vaporize the water, thus cooling the animal in the process. In order to cut down on wasting water, it is important to get them wet, let them dry and then wet them again. Try not to wet cows that are already wet.
- Feed bunk management: Similar to how the summer heat can impact when and what you eat, the same goes for your cows. Manipulating your schedule to meet the needs of your herd is critical in the summer months. Feeding in the cooler parts of the day helps to drive consumption and as a result decreases the many effects that depressed feed intake could have on your herd.
- Test your forage and adjust your ration. The heat can have a substantial effect on the quality of the forages that you are feeding. Testing your forages weekly and adjusting your ration based on those results is encouraged.
- Keep the rumen stable: During the summer heat the occurrence of rumen acidosis tends to increase as result of the pH in the rumen going below 5.5. Assessing your nutrition program and including a yeast product can help in maintaining the stability in the rumen.