Cow Comfort in the Heat
The dog days of summer came a little early this year with the middle of July hitting record numbers. Our area had eight days over 90 degrees and the heat index over 100 degrees. Although that may not be many days of suffering in total, it’s a lot for us. Some areas of the country experience this all of the time and know how to cope with it, but the last time we experienced this was in 1988.
We like to make sure our cows are extra comfortable, which helps them continue to produce quality milk. We made sure all of our 52-inch fans that hang from support beams in the freestall barn were working and always on. Even when it’s humid, the cows have plenty of airflow. There are soaker hoses hanging in our holding pen that release a steady stream and/or spray while the cows wait to be milked.
The cows have sand that I call “beach sand” to lay on. I call it beach sand because it’s probably as nice if not better than sand at Lake Michigan. It’s great to use because it stays cool in the summer and conforms to their utters in the winter and doesn’t freeze. The freestalls where they lay — their beds — are long enough to fit the whole cow. It’s not any fun when you hang off the bed, so when we built the barn, we made sure they were big enough to fit the largest cow. With their big beds and comfy bedding, and a fan blowing on them, resting in the freestalls is like a little piece of heaven.
Cows are like us — when it’s this hot, they don’t want to eat. So we make sure they still have their nutritious feed in front of them at all times to encourage them to eat. We make sure the water fountains are free-flowing, the tubs are full and there is an endless supply of water. Did you know that a cow can drink the equivalent of a bathtub of water each day? I bet it’s more like two bathtubs when it’s hot!
Typically cows don’t produce as much milk when the temperatures are so hot. But because we kept them so comfortable during this really hot spell, our cows’ milk production dropped a little, but bounced right back.