Apr 26, 2020
Top 5 Tips for Managing Heat Stress in Cattle
Apr 26, 2020
During the summer, dry matter intake can drop — and so can milk production. It’s not inevitable that performance declines as temperatures and humidity rise. There are simple changes producers can make to ensure the quality and quantity of feed remains steady throughout the season, advises Tony Hall, MSc MSB, PAS, Technical Services – Ruminant, with Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“Cows under heat stress can express a number of feeding behaviors that changes their digestive balance,” Hall says. “The whole farm team must work together to keep intakes up and make sure cows are receiving quality feed. The good news is these changes are inexpensive and can be quickly enacted.”
Hall’s recommends five changes to help fight the effects of heat stress and minimize disruptions in digestion.
- Don’t feed unstable silage. When aerobically unstable silage is added, it can cause the entire ration to heat. Cattle simply don’t want to eat hot feed in the summer. Plus, hot silage is a sign valuable nutrients have been lost. To minimize spoilage, feed out at a rate fast enough to avoid heating and discard all moldy silage. If silage heating is a consistent challenge, producers can use an inoculant containing the high dose-rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 to help improve the aerobic stability of silage.
- Change the feeding schedule. Producers can feed twice daily to help maximize intakes. Ideally more of the total mixed ration (TMR) should be offered at the coolest part of the day — around 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
- Guard against sorting. Ensure the forage component cannot be sorted out and perform regular TMR push-ups to encourage access and feed intake.
- Increase availability of water. Make sure water is readily available and clean.
- Adjust the ration. Diets should include more energy to compensate for declines in intake. Typical adjustments include aiming for 18 to 19 percent acid detergent fiber (ADF) and 25 to 28 percent neutral detergent fiber (NDF). Adding an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic — like Levucell® SC, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 — can improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion in lactating dairy cows.
In fact, research conducted at the University of Florida on lactating dairy cows has shown S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 improved rumen pH compared to control cows during heat stress conditions. In addition, S. cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 supplemented cows had higher milk protein yield and 7.2 percent improved feed efficiency compared to cows that were not supplemented.1
Probiotics are especially helpful for producers experiencing health challenges as a result of heat or other stressors. Another probiotic strain, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079, has been proven to positively activate the immune system of cattle during times of stress. Typically, probiotics can be combined into any ration.
“When heat stress occurs, normal rumen and immune function is disrupted. This worsens the already significant effects of heat stress in dairy cattle,” Hall says. “With simple changes, we can help cattle continue to perform well even under heat stress conditions where feed intake is decreased.”
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1 Marsola RS, et. al., Effect of feeding live yeast on performance of Holstein dairy cows during summer. J. Dairy Sci. 2010; (88) E-Suppl.2:432.
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