Keeping Cows Cool in Hot Weather
Even though the end of summer is drawing near, there are still at least four more weeks of hot weather for most areas. In places like Georgia, Texas, Florida and other parts of the South, the heat may hang on through early October.
Because cattle have a giant fermenting vat in their bodies in the form of their rumen, they are uncomfortably hot at much lower temperatures than people are. Even at rest, a cow will be generating heat, merely by the action of her rumen digesting her food. By the time the air temperatures reach 82 degrees Fahrenheit, cattle will begin feeling incredibly hot. When you consider that optimum comfortable temperature for a cow is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, it's obvious that 90-degree days are going to be really hard on a cow.
Here are some tips to help you keep your cows cooler and more comfortable in hot weather.
1. Provide Shade
Especially if your cattle have dark hides, providing them a shady spot where they can congregate when the sun gets high. This can be a small wooded area or an open-sided shed for the cows. If you are using a barn for shade, try to leave the doors open as much as possible to permit airflow.
2. Provide a Pond
If cows have access to a pond, they will gladly swim in the water and stand in the pond to keep cool. While it is not ideal for your cows to stomp through your pond and foul the water, when it's really hot, you may want to make an exception.
3. Provide Plenty of Water
Cow must have free access to all of the water that they can drink in hot weather. Without this water access, they will quickly dehydrate and die. Be sure that your troughs are checked on and filled several times a day or install automatic waterers. Additionally, you can spray down your cows with water to help them cool off.
4. Don't Forget About the Calves
Calves are the lowest animals in the pecking order in a herd of cows. You must provide enough water that they can reach to keep them from getting pushed away from the troughs. Calves can get badly dehydrated very quickly, simply by virtue of their smaller body masses. Keep an eye out for young calves in extremely hot weather. If they get overheated, do everything that you can to cool them off before they get sick from heat exhaustion.
5. Put Off Routine Cattle Handling Chores
Heat stresses cows, so if at all possible, put off routine cattle handling chores like vaccinations or weighing if you can to avoid further stressing your cows. If there are some handling chores that just can't wait, then you should try to do them as early in the morning as possible. Stop working cows by mid-morning to allow them to find a cool place to rest in the hottest part of the day. Don't have cows standing around in pens or in the chute for more than 30 minutes when it's hot.
6. Watch Out for Heat Stress
Be aware of the signs of heat stress. The symptoms of heat stress may include excessive slobbering and drooling, cattle going off feed, panting, and breathing with the mouth open. If you observe signs of heat stress in your animals, try to find ways of cooling them down.
Heat can have awful effects on cattle. Even if they don't die from heat stress, cattle will lose weight, have miscarriages, and have smaller birth-weights in newborn calves. Keeping your cows cool in hot weather is not only humane, but it makes financial sense as well.