The main thing is to make sure there’s sufficient water provision – water intake will increase by 10-20 per cent on hot days. Ideally, troughs – especially metal ones – should be shaded if they are outside. Providing shade to animals outdoors in general is important and if they’re housed, ventilation will be one of the biggest factors.
In an ideal situation, automatic ventilation systems would be used, but this may not be practical for every farmer. For those relying on natural ventilation, the easiest way is to open up the side wall and remove the roof ridge to allow moisture to escape. If temperatures keep going up and up, farmers may increasingly start to use artificial ventilation, fans and sprinkler systems etc, which are quite widespread in the US.
As we look ahead to warmer weather, farmers can be reviewing the natural ventilation in their buildings and thinking about whether to open up the sides, making sure sheds are not overly humid. If there’s heavy vegetation around the sides of the building, this should be cut back.
It’s a good idea to give over 60 per cent of feed between 8pm and 8am, as dry matter intake will increase when it is cooler overnight.
At high-risk times, supplementation is a good idea for any cattle, but especially for animals that are most at risk such as high producing dairy cows. The supplements available will help to increase dry matter intake and maintain milk production and fertility while reducing disease incidence and acidosis associated with heat stress.
Forage quality is also important in deciding if supplementation is necessary as low quality, stemmy forage generates a lot more heat from fermentation in comparison to high quality forage, which will be digested more quickly.
When temperatures are above 25ºC, farmers need to be looking out for signs of heat stress – including lethargy, inactivity, cows holding their heads down and increased respiratory rate. An emergency situation would be if cows measure over 100 breaths per minute and a body temperature above 40ºC.
Ask our livestock editor a question…
What are your key concerns for your livestock business? Do you have any burning questions on animal health, nutrition or the current outlook for the livestock sector? Farmers Guide livestock editor Sarah Kidby is on hand to answer your questions this month.
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