This week Dr Tarek Helali, the CEO of Dairylink Co. our Artex dealer in Egypt, writes for us about cow cooling and simple ways of improving milk production in hot and arid climates. If you are interested in learning more or connecting with Dr Helali, we encourage you to visit his website or connect with him on LinkedIn.
It is a sunny 23°C / 73.4°F morning, and people are happy with the weather conditions and the relatively warm day, but…this is not good for their cows.
Even on this excellent day, cows are starting to feel the heat. High producing dairy cows will start to be affected by temperatures as high as 21°C / 69.8°F. It might pass unnoticed at first, they may only reduce their feed intake by a little bit, but it will have an impact.
In fact, heat stress is considered the number one killer of dairy cows, and subsequently kills the profit of these cows in hot and arid climates. Cows will be affected in many ways and the severity will only go up as the air temperature increases.
Signs of heat stress can go up from just a slight drop in feed intake and standing for a long time with their heads down, to severe signs of shallow, rapid respiration, drooling, and even death.
From a vet’s point of view, heat stress will raise the corticosteroid hormone (called the stress hormone) which eventually will cause depression of the immune system in animals. This will start causing health issues and lead to a low response to vaccinations. Cows will stand for longer periods of time to ease the pressure on their lungs caused by rapid respiration, which is why farmers notice a boost in hoof problems at the end of Summer.
Vet bills are going up!
If they are not properly cooled during hot weather, these cows will be expected to have a shorter productive life. That is why countries with emerging dairy industries and hot climates are importing more cows every year just to maintain their cow population!
It’s obvious that cow cooling will not only extend the lifespan of these cows but also will allow them to produce at their full genetic potential, protecting a farmer’s investment long term.
A farmer’s priority is usually focused on the high producing cows that are giving the highest daily revenue, but is this the best approach?
In my opinion, this is the rank of priorities for animals needing to be cooled
1. Cows in the holding pen at milking time.
2. Close-up dry cows and late pregnant heifers!
3. High producing milking herd
4. Mid-late lactation cows.
5. Short bred or eligible for breeding heifers - Yes! They need to be cooled as well
6. Suckling calves will benefit from air movement at the level of their heads or higher.
There are many cooling strategies to implement to do a good job
Shade: I mean a lot of shade, especially when cows are in loose housing or Saudi Style barns.
Circulation Fans: These come in different sizes, capacities, and patterns. Remember they are not all equal, please talk to an expert, not just the salesman!
Before deciding which type or model a farmer should buy, a proper ventilation strategy should be developed for the facility. Farmers should note that they will get what they paid for. Cheap fans could be a very costly decision in the long run. Although they may cost less initially, the question is will they do the job? Properly?
Farmers should ask their fan suppliers about:
- Fan electric efficiency, as electricity is not cheap and if it is still cheap in some countries, it will not in the future.
- The amount of air that a fan will blow, and amount of air per Watt spent.
- Can this air be directed to where is needed or will be lost after a short distance?
- What is the expected overall lifespan of this fan, motor, blades and how it is built? (Is it made of steel that will rust or more durable material)?
Soaking lines: Considered a great combination with proper fans above them, soaking lines are very suitable for holding pens and on feed lanes.
They consist of distribution pipes of proper size (either PVC or Galvanized steel) with soaking nozzles that are properly spaced according to their radius and water distribution pattern. Droplet size should be large enough to soak the cows to the skin in a short time (1 or 2 minutes) and droplets should be big enough not to drift to avoid wetting the feed bunk.
Usually, they are automatically controlled, allowing the soakers to be on for 1 or 2 minutes and off for 5 to 10 minutes according to temperature. This allows water to be evaporated by circulating fans air (evaporative cooling). It’s important to ensure your manure system can handle the excess water.
Farmers should ask their suppliers about:
- The material of the pipes, this should be a durable material like PVC or Galvanized steel to ensure long trouble-free life.
- The spacing of the soakers with an overlapping pattern to assure proper soaking.
- The material of the soaker nozzles to assure easy maintenance and a long-life span.
- The amount of water and water pressure needed to operate the system properly.
- Is the system controllable via a smart controller that will react to different temperatures during the day or night?
High-Pressure Fogging: The idea behind HPF is to directly cool the air around the cows by adding humidity to the relatively dry air, so the air will be cooled and will then cool the cow skin.
HPF is very common in arid climates and did great in the hottest deserts of the Arab world such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Cows under this system are producing to their full genetic potential even with outside temperature in the 40°-50°’s C / 104°-120°’s F!
When we talk about HPF, we mean HIGH PRESSURE of up to 1000 PSI that will not cause any kind of wetting of the animals, people, or the environment. The droplet size will be tiny enough to evaporate due to the airspeed before hitting any surface.
This system can be mount on fans with SS distribution pipes and SS nozzles using clean water with low TDS and should be free from impurities for low maintenance.
Farmers should ask their suppliers about:
- Will the system run properly without wetting the ground or the animals?
- The material of the pipes and nozzles should be durable to ensure a long, trouble-free life
- Is the system controllable with a smart controller to react according to the temperature and relative humidity of the environment?
At the end of the day, cows don’t lie. If the farmer has a proper cooling system, cows will eat well and then rest comfortably chewing their cud and produce their white gold and reproducing just as they should!
Note to my dear fellow farmers: Even though it is still March, please remember to maintain your cooling system long before the first warm day of the season, which is not far away!