Good nutrition is essential, especially in hot weather. Heat reduces cows' appetites and less feed means less production. Hot weather also changes the way cows process and use nutrients.
Summer nutrition strategies aim to:
- Maintain daily intakes of metabolisable energy and various nutrients
- Maintain digestibility of feed in the gut
- Free up more energy for milk production by maintaining normal heat balance
- Provide energy in the form that best suits the cows in their challenged state
In this video, dairy consultant Steve Little shares some tips for effectively managing cows and mitigating heat stress during the hot, seasonal conditions.
In hot weather, dairy farmers should allow for 200 to 250 litres of drinking water per cow per day in hot weather, which is double what cows usually need each day. Ensuring cows have access to plenty of cool drinking water wherever they are during the day is important, as is a big water trough on the exit side of the dairy. A minimum of 75 centimetres of water trough space per cow should be allowed. Water pipes should be 75 millimetres in diameter, with sufficient pressure to provide 20L/cow per hour so troughs cope with periods of peak demand.
More information on drinking water is available on the Stock Water page.
With daily feed intake reduced and more grain or concentrates being fed to maintain energy intake, the quality and amount of fibre sources fed is critical. High-quality fibre is the best tool farmers have to maintain rumen stability and to increase nutrient density without producing excessive metabolic heat. Heat stressed cows have a greater need for glucose.
Most farmers notice falls in milk production when cows get hot. This not only results in substantial losses in milk income, but also reduced in-calf rates, low milk protein and fat tests, liveweight loss, higher somatic cell counts, more clinical mastitis cases and other cow health problems, which can often double these losses.
Substantial benefits can be gained from an effective heat stress management program.
Dairy Australia is helping farmers adapt to this changing operating environment through the Cool Cows program, which offers dairy farmers and their advisors information and tools to help stay ahead of heat stress.
The Cool Cows website contains tips and information to help farmers work out the value per unit of energy and protein based on actual feed analysis.
Dairy Australia's Keeping cows on the curve in summer fact sheet also offers advice on how to keep cows cool and sustain milk production through summer.