As a dairy producer, there are few feelings worse than heading into peak heat stress months with known cow comfort issues that you don’t have a straightforward answer for. You’re likely wrapping-up spring projects, whether that be facilities updates or other changes, and time is stretched – both for you and your on-dairy team.
So finding a solution for decreases in lying time, unexpected peaks in your parlor’s Temperature Humidity Index (THI), or even dealing with increases in cow clustering on hot days has taken a back seat.
Thankfully, members of the VES-Artex Dairy Consultation Team – a group of industry and product experts who help producers optimize their dairy environment for peak cow comfort – provided their top Cow Comfort tips that can be implemented near-, mid-, and long-term to boost your dairy’s productivity while also driving ROI.
Mow Down THI Issues
Experiencing an unexpected rise in THI in your barn or parlor, but not sure why? Well, there could be two straightforward culprits: long grass or weeds growing near your facility.
Simply put, long grass and weeds can hold unnecessary moisture, heat, and bugs, creating a triumvirate of unnecessary THI components. Especially in the mornings, long grass will hold condensation and can help create a sort of cow sauna in your parlor or barn.
The solution’s easy. Get your trimmer or mower and chop that foliage down to size.
Another easy-to-implement solution for giving your cows a reprieve from the summer sun is adding shade cloth to your facilities. In many states that still have a majority of naturally ventilated barns and open lots where sun exposure can be intense, cows will tend to congregate when body temperatures rise.
This has a compounding effect, as the body temperature from the animals radiates in the small cluster, thus making the cow’s compatriots even warmer. Additionally, clustering attracts bugs, which isn’t just irritating for your herd, but also the humans working on your operation.
So, working with a company like VES-Artex and our network of local, trustworthy dealers to get some shade cloth hung before summer really sets in can really knock back some of the aforementioned symptoms.
Making a Ventilation Plan
Doing what you can in the near term, then planning for a retrofitted ventilation strategy is one our team see – and recommends! – a lot. Whether you’re operating a dairy in the Midwest United States, in a tropical climate, or in the Middle East, making incremental improvements en route to a more expansive ventilation investment is a smart approach.
The good news is that not only are retrofits common with our customers, but they’re also actually fairly cut-and-dried when it comes to implementation. Not to oversimplify, but turning a naturally ventilated barn into a tunnel vented barn is essentially a function of how big the facility is (total cubic air volume), typical seasonal weather conditions, and determining the appropriate number of air exchanges for that facility. From there, VES-Artex consultants will determine how many exhaust fans are needed to pull fresh air into and out of the structure, and how many overhead recirculating fans are needed to ensure the air is moving at the correct air speed at the cow level, which is key.
While the investment level on a retrofit is higher than the previous solutions, the return on investment can be quick – and significant. For example, on a recent customer project, which cost roughly $700,000, that customer was able to recoup that investment at their 1,000-cow dairy in less than four years. Results will vary by operations.
Between improved and consistent milk production throughout the year and to improved reproductive consistency, the operation ran more profitability and more efficiently with the addition of VES-Artex ventilation solutions.
To learn more from one of the godfathers of Cow Comfort, our own consulting veterinarian, Dr. Mike Wolf, make sure to register for our upcoming VES-Artex Academy Webinar on Keeping Cow Comfort Consistent. That will take place Friday, July 8 at 1 p.m. CT.
Additionally, for more insight on our blog, or to check out replays of previous webcasts and podcasts, head over to VES-Artex.com. And don’t forget to follow us on social, where we’re always dropping information and sharing stories from the field!