As a professional hoof trimmer, I have experienced days so hot that I wished I had a swimming pool nearby to dive into to cool down. We read a lot about heat stress in dairy cows. I certainly don’t have the definitive answers. However, I do know this for sure: a cow, just like her hoof trimmer, prefers a cooler environment over hot and stuffy surroundings.

The best way to get an idea of how the heat affects your herd is to monitor the animals’ behaviour. A cow will search for the most comfortable place in her environment when temperatures are rising. It’s the same with us, hoof trimmers. In the morning, we start off warmly dressed. Then at some point, the shirt comes off. A little later perhaps, a roof goes over the chute to create shade. Often, a large water jug appears beside the chute, and don’t forget the quick dive in the creek during lunch break. We are just trying to make our day more comfortable so we can optimize our performance.

Worried about heat stress affecting your herd? Monitor the animals’ behavior! Click To Tweet

Let’s go back to our dairy cows. They have no shirts to remove or the option to go down to the creek. What about a water jug for them? They are totally at the mercy of their owner. Cows do not have very many active sweat glands, and their main way of losing heat is through their breath. Still, they will try to make the best of the situation with the means available to ensure their survival and optimize their performance.

How does heat stress affect the hooves of dairy cows? Most often, they stand for longer periods when it is hot, as this lets them catch a breeze and cool off a bit. However, the four hooves of a cow can’t take standing on hard surfaces for extended periods of time. She’s already dealing with waiting times before milking, eating, etc., and the hot weather might just tip the scales towards lameness problems.

Tips for dealing with the heat stress challenge

What can you do to help your dairy cows cope with the heat stress challenge? I’ve got some tips that will allow you to get and stay on track.

  1. Ensure that good and clean water is available. I’ve seen herd owners place

    Heat stress and clean water

    Figure 1. First tip to deal with the heat stress: ensure clean water is available for your herd.

    a long gutter or extra tubs among the animals in the summer months to avoid waiting times when they need their drink.

  2. If your herd is in dry lots, make sure there’s a shady area to keep the direct sun rays away from your animals.
  3. Use adequate misters or sprinklers to bring the area air temperature down.
  4. Deploy fans to create air movement, so the cow feels more comfortable.
  5. Use proper fly control: it doesn’t help the cow if she has to battle both the heat and insects.
  6. Watch standing times: a cow will stand in drafty areas to optimize cold air flow around her whole body.
  7. Have a proper trimming procedure in place. Make sure that the hooves are in optimal condition before the heatwave. By doing that, you’re eliminating and/or preventing other hoof problems from occurring. The animal is under enough stress from dealing with the heat: avoid adding to it wherever possible.
  8. Avoid having low spots in your dirt lots: the cow knows where they are and uses them for cooling. The disadvantage of this cooling method is that these areas are often muddy and difficult to manage. This means that the chances of developing mastitis are very high. Additionally, digital dermatitis (warts) can spread easily in these muddy and wet conditions. Create other cooling alternatives.

Other resources about heat stress

Let me point out in conclusion that this article and list don’t provide a complete overview of the subject. Heat effects will differ widely across geographic areas and environments (facilities). Keep your eyes open around your own dairy cows and ask for professional opinions and advice from your veterinarian and/or hoof trimmer. If you want to send me any ideas or suggestions, please contact me through the Contact page. You can also download a printable version of this article, great for sharing with others! In conclusion, I would also like to share a few links to professionals in cooling management:

Best of luck in keeping your animals cool!

Related Posts

Should Hoof Products Include Formalin

Should Your Hoof Products List Include Formalin?

Adding formalin (also known as formaldehyde) to the foot bath is believed to make hooves harder. But when lameness is an...
Foot Rot Affecting Your Herd

Dairy cow lameness: Foot rot vs. Hoof rot

The term foot rot or ‘hoof rot’ is one that might be used on your farm to describe a sore foot. Before explaining the...
Antibiotic Danger in Milk

Possible antibiotic residues and claw lesions

Residues becoming a concern? Antibiotic residues has been on the radar for a while. Does it really affect our dairy herds...
Where to Find a Hoof Trimmer

Where Can I Find a Hoof Trimmer?

"WANTED: Hoof trimmers! Please contact!" The Hoof Trimmer and his profession are an essential part of a dairy cow's...
Progressive Dairyman Interview

Hoof Trimmers and Veterinarians Can Work Better Together

Dairy producers rely on a number of professionals to help them day in and day out. While each professional works closely...
Canadian Non Antibiotic Medication Hoof Care

Intracare BV Hoof-fit Gel Non-Antibiotic Medication for Cattle

Press release February 25, 2016. Intracare BV produces Hoof-fit Gel: the first Canadian non-antibiotic medication for hoof...
7 Tips Combat Cattle Lameness

Seven Tips for the Best Time Management

Lack of time is the number one reason for not having a preventative hoof care plan in place on our farms. However, some...
Footbath Dairy Cattle

Overview of Cattle Footbath Method on Dairy Farms

A producer recently approached me after starting to question the ultimate success rate of the footbath method. He was also...
3 Factors Excess Hoof Pressure Cattle

3 factors causing excess pressure in the hoof of a dairy cow

Review on the webinar hosted by AHDB Dairy by Prof. Jon Huxley: Watch on YouTube Every farmer has had to deal with lameness...
Cattle Hoof Care Lameness Control Strategies

Lameness Control Strategies: Prevention vs Treatment

I’m sure you’ve run into lameness challenges in the past – or perhaps you’re currently facing some challenges? Or maybe...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This