Dairy cows more susceptible to heat stress, expert says

dairy cows .jpg
Posted at 1:08 AM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 11:13:41-04

MARSING, Idaho — Nederend Farms is dedicated to keeping its cows comfortable, happy, and healthy. In total, the farm has about 8,000 Holstein cows, and amid higher than normal temperatures that have hit the Treasure Valley, the farm is making sure the heat doesn’t impact the cows.

“Cows don’t have any sweat glands. Think about wearing a leather jacket all the time in 100-degree heat. What we do is create an environment around them. We’ll soak the cows, we’ll cool the air with water,” said John Nederend, one of the owners of Nederend Farms.

Misters and fans are running inside the barn, providing heat relief for the cows to help avoid heat stress, which could cause them to reduce feed intake.

“Which will then be a drop in milk production and we’re looking for a decrease in reproduction,’ Nederend said. “With cooling systems like this, you really do not see what you used to in the old days where the cow will be outside in the pasture. You would see a 20 percent decrease in milk production which now you might see a five to ten percent with cooling systems like these,” Nederend said.

Nederend said cows preferred 35 to 70-degree conditions as the average temperature for the cow is 101.5 degrees.

Bob Collier, University of Idaho Department Head of Animal Veterinary and Food Services, said shade and misters help with managing heats stress in cows.

“Some dairy producers, in particular, have invested a fair amount of money in cooling equipment. Most beef producers would not have made that investment because the cash flow relative to the impacts of heat stress don’t favor spending a lot of money on cooling beef cows, so they provide shade in some cases some fans but not much else,” Collier said.

Collier said high-producing dairy cows are most at risk for heat stress.

“They’re eating a lot of feed which means they’re producing a lot heat themselves and also their body size makes it difficult to lose heat effectively,” Collier said.

Since establishing the dairy farm in 1998, Nederend says they follow one of his grandfather’s mottos.

“He said, 'take good care of your cows and they will take care of you,'” Nederend said.