Heat stress is a significant challenge during the summer months on dairy farms, affecting the well-being, health, and milk production of cows. One of the most effective methods to prevent heat stress is ensuring adequate airflow with cooling fans. However, what can you do if investing in fans is too expensive, or if the fans do not arrive at the barn before the heat stress season?

This blog discusses nine practical tips that can help reduce the effects of heat stress on your herd. These methods do not require large investments or technical installations but focus on more efficient use of existing infrastructure and resources.


1. Monitor your cows and react heat stress promptly

   Monitor your cows' behavior and pay special attention to their breathing rate. If it reaches 60-75 breaths per minute, a cow is already suffering from heat stress, but may not yet show any other symptoms! Remember that changes typically appear in the milk tank a few days after the onset of heat stress. When you see changes in the cows' behavior (e.g., excessive standing, clustering in the shaded areas, and around water troughs), heat stress has been ongoing for some time, and the body's own heat regulation can no longer eliminate the excess heat. Prevention is crucial with heat stress, so start cooling measures even before the temperature exceeds 20°C.

2. Maximize barn ventilation

   In older and lower barns, summer ventilation is often inadequate. In this case, investing in basic barn ventilation is the most crucial improvement. Enhancing ventilation, for example, by adding fans and opening side walls, helps improve air circulation and cool the barn's interior air. Aim to maximize cross-ventilation, where air flows evenly throughout the barn, removing warm air and bringing in cooler air. This not only lowers the temperature but also removes moisture and harmful gases, thus improving air quality.

3. Clean the Fans

 If you have fans in your barn, regular cleaning is essential for their efficiency and longevity. Dust and other debris can reduce the airflow of fans by up to 30%, which also leads to higher energy consumption. It is advisable to check and clean the fans at least before the hottest months of summer and if necessary, also during the summer. The cleaning process includes cleaning the fan blades, protective casings, and air intake vents. Also, ensure that the fans' motors and belts are functioning properly, as worn parts can also affect the efficiency of the fans.

4. Ensure Adequate Water Supply

During hot weather, cows' water demand can double, placing a lot of demands on water supply and functionality of water troughs. Are all the waterers in the barn functioning, and do they supply water fast enough, even if several cows are drinking at the same time? Remember to clean the waterers and change the water once a day to ensure good water quality. A simple way to prevent heat stress is to use "seasonal waterers" during hot periods. These "seasonal waterers" are intended for use only during hot weather, so they can be quite simple and therefore inexpensive to implement.


A temporary water trough can be made from a large pipe


5. Cool the Cows with water

 Cooling cows by wetting their backs can be an effective way to alleviate heat stress, especially during sudden heat waves. Using water in this way, which evaporates from their skin taking heat with it, can effectively lower the cows' body temperature. Water can be used for cooling either by cooling the air or directly on the cows. Use plenty of water, and make sure the hair is wet down to the skin for the method to cool effectively. This method is particularly useful when combined with other cooling measures, such as the use of fans.


6. Reduce Animal Density

 Is your barn low and ventilation inadequate during the summer? Each cow produces heat, thereby heating the barn as well. It would be better to have fewer animals in the barn during the summer if ventilation is challenging. Practically, this can be implemented by moving dry cows from the barn to the pasture. However, remember that shade should always be available for the cows in the pasture. The space freed up by the dry cows can be used for lactating cows, providing them with more room. In the evenings, cows can also be let out to pasture or paddock, and at the same time, the barn cools down faster when its animal density is lower.

7. Distribute Fresh Feed at Night

 During hot weather, cow’s eating and drinking behavior changes, which should be taken into account feeding. Temperatures often drop significantly at night compared to the day, so take advantage of these cooler hours and distribute fresh feed at night. This way, the feed remains cool for as long as possible, and it also tastes better to the cows during the coolest part of the day. However, monitor how the feed behaves during the day. It shouldn’t warm up, but it’s important to ensure that high-quality feed is available at all times. Would it be possible to have multiple feeding times practically? You can also discuss the matter with your nutritionist and inquire about adding preservatives to the feed.


8. Avoid stress-inducing activities for cows

As the name suggests, heat stress causes a stress reaction, so try to reduce all other stress factors in your cow's life during hot periods. For example, individual animal transfers and competition for food and water cause stress for cows, so ensure the availability of water and food around the clock. Also, avoid long-term treatments such as hoof trimming and pregnancy checks during the hottest times, or at least schedule them for the cooler parts of the day, as excessive movement can significantly raise a cow's body temperature. Avoid vaccinations during hot periods, or at least do them early in the morning during the coolest hours. In milking parlor barns, try to minimize the time cows spend in the holding area and in the milking parlor.

9. Provide Shade

Shades can reduce direct sunlight into the barn and lower the ambient temperature, helping cows to stay cooler. Shading from direct sunlight improves animal comfort and reduces the risk of heat stress. Strategically place shade structures to protect feeding and resting areas so that cows can benefit from the shade while eating or resting.


It is important to remember that cooling measures should not be targeted only at milking cows, as all cattle suffer from heat stress.

The tips presented in this blog post, such as adding water troughs and reducing animal density, help alleviate immediate heat stress. However, true cooling measures are achieved trough cooling fans and cow spraying. By combining these actions it is possible to minimize the effects of heat stress.

It is important to remember that cooling measures should not be targeted only at milking cows, as all cattle suffer from heat stress. Growing animals can experience negative impacts on their development due to heat stress. In dry cows, heat stress affects not only the mother but also the fetus and future milk production.

Effective management of heat stress not only improves milk production in the short term but also promotes the long-term health and fertility of the animals. This is reflected not only in better productivity but also in reduced health problems and lower care costs. With the right practices and effective cooling solutions, it is possible to minimize the negative effects of heat stress and maintain smooth animal traffic. 



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