It is so easy to fall into a rut sometimes that we forget to ask ourselves important questions. For example: Is your cow cooling and herd management good enough to weather the summer? As we head into the summer, cow cooling is one of the biggest players in cow comfort and well-being, trailing only behind the importance of a good ration and cow management.
It has become all too common to accept the status quo of losing milk in the summer while watching pregnancy rates drop and health and mortality events climb, but who said that summer has to be that way? Healthy and comfortable cows have fewer health problems and tend to have longer lives than animals that are experiencing a lack luster diet and a poor environment. That is why dairies all over California have implemented some form of cow cooling.
Cow cooling is a wise investment with a great return, not only in the long term but in the immediate future as well. A superior cooling system will give you an improvement in herd health, production, and reproduction overnight.
The same overnight response can be seen with a poor cooling system, but opposite results would be expected. For example, fans with no water component (such as soakers and misters) are equivalent to creating a giant convection oven. Although cow cooling with fans is important, so is a good system that takes into consideration the need for well-placed soakers or misters as the foundation of the system.
With all this talk about cooling, there is something that trumps cooling altogether and will benefit a herd all year long: herd health. Healthy cows are much less susceptible to disease than unhealthy cows, and that is no secret. What some forget to recognize is that if a herd is struggling in the cool weather, the hot summer is not going to make anything better. Of course, I am speaking to the hotter climate areas in the country.
An important group to keep an eye on all year round, especially during the summer, is your transition cows. The calving process is one of the key factors on how a cow’s lactation curve will look. With so many elements affecting a transition cow, including comfort, pen moves, and nutrition, it’s a good place to start. But so is the milk cow ration. A great milk cow ration will have a positive impact on a herd’s health.
There was a time on our farm when we were lacking one key component in our mineral pack, and it had irreversible effects on the herd. Although seemingly inconsequential, when fixed, it made a huge change in our overall herd health, which gave way to a healthier, stronger herd through the summer.
With some minor notable exceptions, healthy, well taken care of animals have stronger immune systems, greater reproduction possibilities, and live longer. Considering the benefits of improved cooling and nutrition, the irrefutable increased animal welfare factor, and the financial payback, it seems to be an area too great to overlook.
Are you ready for summer on your farm?
Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.