12 feeding strategies for heat-stressed cattle | Living the Country Life
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12 feeding strategies for heat-stressed cattle

Alvaro Garcia, South Dakota State University Extension Dairy Specialist, shares this checklist of feeding strategies to reduce drops in cow intake during hot weather.
  • 1. Feed early in the morning.

    Feed between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., or in the evenings, to avoid the highest metabolic heat production (rumen fermentation), which coincides with maximum temperatures.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 2. Avoid feed shortages in the bunk.

    When offering fresh feed, you should expect to see a refusal rate of 0.5 to 5%. Remove leftover feed at least once a day to minimize heating of the fresh feed.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 3. Feed a total mixed ration.

    Use this method instead of supplying feedstuffs individually.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 4. Add high-moisture silage to improve ration acceptability.

    Fermented feeds like silage have a lower pH, which slows down mold and yeast growth in the ration and reduces heating. When mold and yeast growth does occur, the compounds often have an unpleasant odor and taste for cattle.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 5. Add sweet bran, beet pulp or wet distillers grains.

    Adding these things to the mix can help increase ration acceptability in your cattle.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 6. Add water.

    If the DM of the cattle's diet exceeds 60%, add water to bring it down to 50%. Adding water conditions the ration, reduces the dust, and increases its acceptability.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 7. Feed at least twice a day.

    Also, mix the ration immediately prior to feeding to reduce heat build-up in the feed bunk.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 8. Spread it out.

    Make sure there's feed available along all the feed bunk; cows tend to concentrate and eat close to the area of the fans or water troughs.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 9. Use feed additives.

    Additives can control mold growth, reduce secondary fermentations, and cut down on excessive heating of the ration in the feed bunk. Most of these products are organic-acid based (e.g. propionic acid). Feed additives such as yeasts, fungus, and/or probiotics can be included to improve rumen health. Heat-stressed cows lose lots of minerals. Increase the concentration of sodium, potassium and magnesium to a minimum of 1.5, 0.45 and 0.35% of the diet DM, respectively. White salt is a source of sodium, however it is important to maintain the concentration of chlorine at 0.35% of the diet DM, and not exceed 0.5% of white salt in the diet.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 10. Feed high quality, highly digestible forages.

    Target minimum effective NDF at 22% of the diet DM. This can be accomplished with cereal straws as needed (e.g. 1 to 1.5 pounds). Forage particle size has to be between 2.5 and 5 cm to minimize sorting.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 11. Maintain high concentrations of starch and sugars.

    Maintain starches and sugars in the diet  at 26 and 8%, respectively. Cereal grains that contain starch with slower degradation rates, such as corn and milo, are a better option than those with faster degradation rates, such as wheat and barley.  

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014
  • 12. Keep water troughs in the shade and clean frequently.

    Cows prefer to drink water with a temperature between 63 and 82 °F; if the water is not cool enough it further adds to the heat load.
    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 29, 2014

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