Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
dairy cows

Prepare your herd for a stress-free summer

Posted April 07, 2020 by Dr. Ruby Wu, Technical Services Manager
Dairy

Although the hot summer sun hasn’t yet emerged in many areas, now is the time to plan for mitigating the effects heat will have on your dairy herd. Hot weather reduces feed intake and rumination, ultimately hampering milk production and reproductive performance. So, how do you protect your cows? By preparing them.

Just like your cooling equipment needs a tune-up for the coming months, so does your nutrition strategy. Ensuring your ration is properly formulated can reduce strain placed on cows from warm weather. Not to mention a balanced diet can help optimize milk production in the face of heat stress.

Potassium – the key to heat stress success.

Cows are prone to potassium deficiencies during heat stress. Although milk is known for high levels of calcium, potassium levels are higher. Potassium is also the main component of sweat and cows lose it quickly through increased perspiration and urination during hot weather.

Fresh cows also require higher levels of dietary potassium, and research shows that cows are often potassium deficient for the first 10 weeks of lactation. That’s why it’s important to feed supplemental potassium. Achieving a positive DCAD (Dietary Cation-Anion Difference) level and increasing the potassium component can help replace what is lost during milk production.

Increasing feed grade potassium carbonate to 1.7 to 2 percent in high-producing and fresh cow diets helps maximize production and improve cow starts during heat stress. Potassium sources like DCAD Plus have the potential to boost fat-corrected milk production by as much as 8.5 pounds per day.

Put a buffer between your cows and heat stress.

Reduced feed intake due to heat stress leads to less rumination and, therefore, less saliva. This makes cows much more susceptible to subclinical and acute rumen acidosis. Buffers help stabilize rumen acids, increasing feed intake and improving rumen performance.

While cows need this assistance throughout the entire year, it’s especially important in hot weather. Many diets now include more fermentable carbohydrates, which requires more buffering.

Beat the heat with yeast components.

The final component when balancing diets for heat stress is yeast. Research shows that feeding yeast components improves daily milk yield by 2.6 pounds per cow during heat-stressed conditions.

A-MAX is a source of yeast that supports optimal fermentation and digestion, while maintaining consistent milk production and quality during high temperatures. You should consult your nutritional advisor for specific feeding recommendations as levels may vary based on herd stressors.

The right time is now.

Don’t wait for high temperatures to formulate rations to help your cows overcome hot weather stress. Get ahead of the curve to maximize production and improve cow resiliency before heat stress strikes.

To learn more on how you can minimize the effects of heat stress, check out this heat stress checklist.

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