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Are you ready for the summer heat?

Tom Palen Published on 10 June 2013

Summer has arrived, and with it comes heat and humidity. Now is the time to prepare your heat stress and fly control measures. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not you are ready for this summer’s heat:

Have you checked to see if your fans are clean to maximize air movement and save electricity?
Most of us get so busy this time of year that we forget this simple task. Dirty fans can use up to 70 percent more electricity to deliver 50 percent less air movement. This is important to mature animals, youngstock and calves.

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Are they even in working order?
Sometimes we find that during the winter, when not in use, fans will actually quit working. Seized fans can be fire hazards.

Are your curtains clean and in full working order?
Spring is also a good time to make sure the curtains are in full working order. Rarely do we open curtains fully in the winter, so you may find they won’t open all the way due to blockage or malfunction.

Once again, malfunction can be a fire hazard. Dirty curtains also restrict natural sunlight and reduce the health of animals.

Are your feedline and holding area soakers clean and in top working order or are they partially plugged?
I see a lot of soakers and sprinklers covered with dirt and feed thrown up by cows, as well as bird litter. Clean nozzles work more effectively and provide proper spray for maximum cooling effect.

Are other cooling systems in tip-top shape?
If you have evaporators on your farms, ensure that they have been cleaned and checked by your farm equipment specialist.

Milk coolers and heat exchangers can also build up debris in the winter and should also have a spring tune-up to make sure they are ready to work harder in the warm summer months.

Do you have all of your water tanks clean and working, and do you need to add more for the summer?
Quite often we take for granted that water tanks are working, but in the heat of summer, water intakes can quadruple and plugged lines or floats cannot keep up. This is also the reason why additional water outlets are beneficial in the summer.

Water is the number one production, growth and health agent. A standard analysis for mineral content should be a yearly norm on the farm. Many components in water can be detrimental to the health of animals. Don’t assume that your supply is fine just because you had it tested years ago.

Have you remembered cooling the dry cows and transition cows?
They will suffer the most. Your dry cows and transition cows are the building blocks of a successful dairy operation. Get them off to a good start, and all the pieces will fall into place.

Pregnant animals are often forgotten when it comes to heat relief. If you think they don’t suffer more, just ask any mother who has been pregnant during the summer heat.

How about your milk cooling equipment? Is someone planning on giving it a spring tune-up?
Save yourself a few headaches by ensuring this equipment is operating efficiently.

Do you have fly control products in stock and ready to use?
Flies are already here. If you get a head start on them you can keep them under reasonable control. If you start late, you will fight an uphill battle all summer and fall.

Spring manure spreading opens up breeding grounds for flies, and it also moves them from the pit or pile into your barn looking for nourishment and a new breeding ground.

Have you spoken to your farm team about the extra importance of silo and bunk management in summer weather?
Feeds will heat and spoil at a very rapid rate in hot weather. Moulds and fungi love warm environments to grow in.

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These organisms cause reduction in intake and acidosis can occur with cows suffering with lost production, lameness and reduced fertility.

Do you have additives available to add to bunk or TMR to control heating of feed?
There are many additives available to help slow the heating process of feed after it has been mixed. Less heat means fewer moulds, yeast or fungus and better intakes.

Do you have plans to make feed more frequently in order to keep it fresh?
Mixing feed more than once per day will keep feed fresher and encourage intake. Most producers will switch to twice-a-day mixing during summer months to keep feed fresh.

Pushing feed up several times per day also encourages intake. Many of my clients have seen production increases when feed was pushed up several times per day either manually or with robots.

Will you be adding a heat stress package to your mineral mix in order to offset some heat stress?
Certain minerals can be added to reduce the effects of heat stress. They add cost but return on investment is very favourable. Remember heat stress effects last long past the end of summer.

Will you be adding palm fat to the diet to increase butterfat?
Over the last several years, these fats have been used very effectively to give not only an energy boost to cows during a time of reduced dry matter intake but also a direct effect on butterfat content in milk, which can be helpful when butterfat depression occurs in the summer.

Taking a moment to do a quick check of these areas will help you and your cows better combat heat stress this summer.  PD

Tom Palen

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