In North America, the summertime is upon us - as the temperature in our facilities increases its more critical than ever to ensure that herds are cool, and I'm not just talking about your lactating cows. As mentioned in this post about the hidden risks of summer, cooling dry cows is crucial not only for the successful transition into the lactation pen for the dry cow but also for the growth and production potential of the unborn calf.
Previously, I’ve shared some tips on how to prepare your facility for summer. Today, I’d like to share some best practices when using feed lane or holding area soakers.
So, how do you get the best value from your soaking system and ensure that it’s doing the job correctly? Many factors go into developing an effective soaking system, and I encourage you to reach out to me if you’re looking to set one up. For now, here are my four best practices for soaking systems.
1. Automate to Save Both Time and Money – Use a controller that has a smart mode, meaning it will vary the frequency of soaking as heat increases. An automated system will ensure that cooling happens when and how long you want it to without needing someone to flick a switch. It’s also a more efficient use of water, not soaking them when they don’t need it but providing them with the cooling they need.
I recommend using one of our ECC-1 controllers; this evaporative cooling controller features two primary modes of operation for soaking lines or high pressure fogging systems. It comes with a 9.1m (30’) temperature probe that can extend up to 152m (500’).
2. Soak Don’t Wet – Ensure you are using a large droplet nozzle so that you are soaking the cow and not wetting the cow. Wetting the cow with a fine mist will create an additional thermal layer that prevents cooling. Large droplets are a must, and the goal is to soak her back and sides
3. Fans, Fans, and Did I Mention Fans? - Soaking lines, when used in tandem with fans in feed lanes, have been shown to increase milk production as much as 10 lbs on average per day.
One study from Harner, Smith, Brouk, and Murphy from the Kansas State Cow Comfort Consortium in 2001, showed a total of 60,000 additional pounds of milk per day for approximately four months.
This study compared the milk production between 6,000 cows cooled with fans only, and 6,000 cows cooled with fans and feed lane soakers. Proving without a doubt that the addition of soaking lines is a worthwhile investment for any facility facing heat stress.
4. Stay on Top of Maintenance – As with fans, I can’t stress the importance of preventative maintenance enough. When using an automated system, you're not paying attention to your soaking lines, at least that's the goal. It's essential to have a regular maintenance schedule for cleaning and maintaining filters and solenoids to keep the lines free of debris, this also to give you a chance to identify issues before they become more significant problems.
At the end of the day, your soaking system should be set up in such a way that it minimizes labour requirements and maximizes your return on investment. Take a look at the video below of Trillium Hills Farms and their experience using Artex soaking lines.