Spotting & avoiding heat stress in cows in Towcester

July 14, 2021


As the environment in which we farm warms, our Northamptonshire farm vets thought they would write a brief article about the effects this has on cattle. Read about how a relatively moderate increase in temperature can combine with rising humidity to significantly impact the productivity, health and fertility of your herd; a condition we call ‘Heat Stress’.

If you’re worried about heat stress now, please contact Towcester farm vets for specific advice and guidance.

Contact our farm vets 

What causes heat stress in cows and what are the symptoms?

Heat stress kicks in when temperatures rise above 22oC and humidity rises. Under these conditions, cows are unable to dissipate their body heat effectively resulting in; reduced feed intake, reduced milk production in dairy cows, decreased immunity, and poor fertility.

Heat stress can occur in herds that are kept both indoors and outdoors. The good news is, there are some easy ways to recognise warning signs; these include cows panting, standing in the shade, or collecting around drinking troughs. The effects of hot and humid weather can be exacerbated by poor ventilation in cattle sheds, a lack of shade in grazing pastures, and insufficient access to fresh water.

Learn to predict the chances of heat stress

You can predict the onset of heat stress by keeping an eye on the local weather forecast in your area using the met office website. Compare your local conditions to The Temperature Humidity Index that you can see below. This table accounts for the combined effects of temperature and humidity and is a useful and easy way of assessing the likely risk of heat stress.

Table that illustrates the impact of temperature and humidity on the severity of heat stress

Heat stress prevention

Whilst you can’t do much about the weather, you can take some of the following measures to improve your herd’s chances of staying cool in warmer months.

For all herds:

  1. Make sure cows can easily access plenty of fresh, clean, drinking water.
  2. Feed your cows more often, and during cooler parts of the day.
  3. Talk to our farm vets about adjusting your herd’s diet.

Actions to take indoors:

  1. Ensure cattle sheds are well-ventilated.
  2. Lower the temperature in cattle sheds by installing fans and/or sprinklers.

Actions to take outdoors:

  1. Ensure grazing cows have access to shade.
  2. Consider bringing grazing herds inside during the hottest parts of the day.

If you think your herd may be suffering from heat stress, you can always call us. A member of our farm team can attend to give you specific advice and guidance.

You can contact our team on 01327 350239.

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