5 nutrition strategies to beat the heat

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Shoreview, Minn. [June 15, 2012] – The old adage is pay me now or pay me later, but when it comes to heat stress you could pay now and pay later if proper heat abatement steps aren’t taken, says Martha Baker, dairy nutrition specialist with Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC.

Before the summer heat set in, steps were likely taken to clean and service fans, evaluate sprinklers and nozzles to make sure they were in working order and expand water availability, where necessary. Getting these basics right can go a long way in preventing heat stress.

Once the basics have been taken care of, the next area of focus should be on nutritional strategies to beat the heat.

“When cows are heat stressed, intake levels drop,” notes Baker. “To support milk production, the cow needs to eat the same pounds of nutrients as she would in cooler weather. Therefore, the challenge is to provide the same level of nutrients in a smaller package.”

Areas to be mindful of when formulating rations for heat stress include:

  • Choose a highly palatable energy source. Because intake levels are reduced, it’s important to feed a concentrated source of energy that is very palatable and appealing to the cow. A dense source of energy is important so that she is consuming the amount of nutrients needed to support milk production. Baker notes that oftentimes people look to corn to provide additional energy, but increasing corn can increase the opportunity for the animal to have acidosis.
  • Look at trace mineral levels. The level of trace minerals in the diet may need to be elevated to help the cow cope with the stresses of heat. Trace minerals play a role in reproduction, production and the overall health of the animal. A diet deficient in trace minerals may have negative effects that can be costly.
  • Closely examine PUFA levels. Be cognizant of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) levels in the ration. “You should be taking full advantage of fat feeding already, but there may be room for adjustments and it might be worth a closer look,” adds Baker.
  • Pay attention to potassium. During warm weather cows lose large quantities of potassium through sweat. If potassium levels are not optimum in the diet, health challenges could potentially result. Potassium plays a key role in protein metabolism and insulin production.
  • Elevate DCAD levels. Dietary cation anion difference (DCAD) levels should be raised to account for warmer weather. Look to potassium carbonate to drive DCAD levels higher. “Consider raising DCAD levels to plus 35 or plus 45,” says Baker.

Evaluating each area of your ration will help provide your cows with the optimal nutrients they need to overcome challenges associated with summer heat.

Baker advises, “If you don’t take the necessary steps to prevent heat stress now, you will pay for heat stress long after the temperatures have cooled.”

Remember, zeroing in on the cows’ nutritional needs to beat the summer heat is one aspect of a total program approach to feeding cows. “It should always be top of mind to feed every cow, exactly what she needs, where she needs it, when she needs it – nothing more and nothing less,” says Baker. “This approach will aid dairy farmers in capturing opportunities for improved efficiency.”

Source: Land O’Lakes Purina Feed


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