How to feed hot cows
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 (5 - 6 a.m.) or evenings to avoid the highest metabolic heat production (rumen fermentation) coinciding with maximum temperatures.
2. Avoid feed shortages in the bunk. When offering fresh feed there needs to be 0.5 to 5% refusals. Remove left-over feed at least once a day to minimize heating of the fresh feed.
3. Feed a total mixed ration instead of supplying feedstuffs individually.
4. Add high moisture silages to improve ration acceptability. In addition, as fermented feeds have lower pH they slowdown mold and yeast growth in the ration and reduce heating. Mold and yeast growth oftentimes result in compounds with unpleasant odor and taste for cattle.
5. Add sweet bran, beet pulp or wet distillers grains to increase ration acceptability.
6. Add water when the DM of the diet exceeds 60% to bring it down to 50%. Water addition conditions the ration, reduces the dust, and increases its acceptability.
7. Feed at least twice a day and mix the ration immediately prior to feeding to reduce the heat build-up of the ration in the feed bunk.
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.
9. Use feed additives to control mold growth, reduce secondary fermentations, and 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.
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.
11. Maintain high concentrations of starch and sugars in the diet (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.
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.
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