Well, the good news is no cows died.
We had a hot cow early Sunday afternoon. She was standing with her tongue sticking out and mountains of drool falling from her mouth. Heat stress. How did this happen? She was standing next to a water tank that was half-full. The other cows were lounging in the shade. What on Earth!?
As an immediate fix we moved the cows under a tree and filled a water tank with fresh, cold water. Then we hosed the hot cow down with cool water. It didn’t take long and we were out of danger. She took a good drink of cold water then another. Ultimately she lay down in the shade with the other girls.
OK. What went wrong? We had the cows up for milking…normal thing. The night before I asked them to mow the driveway. They obliged. The next morning I thought they could mow out by the mailbox for me. They were delighted. 4″ grass and clover mix must have been what they dreamed of. Then, to top off the tank, I let them graze the ditch.
After the emergency passed, I came inside to fully research what I did wrong. Turns out, that high-protein grazing early in the day mixed with increasing temperatures was a recipe for disaster. Good thing they were up by the house! This PDF provides a good summary of signs and causes.
The cows were stuffed to the gills just as the day got hot. The full rumen was limiting lung capacity. The heat of fermentation was compounding the problem. Plus, this is a heifer who hasn’t shed her winter coat out well. Greg Judy says that’s grounds for culling. I think she needs another year as I basically took her off of hot feed and threw her on pasture in April. She may just need time to adjust nutritionally. As long as she doesn’t come up open…
So. We are now introducing the cows to fresh pasture in the evening, moving once/day. I’m also checking to be sure there is shade available in every paddock. Consequently, some ground will go ungrazed for the next 4-6 weeks and we’ll skip around on cool days. Today was 97 degrees. Two days from now they are calling for 85. Skipping around will get us through the worst of it. I’m glad I have pasture in reserve. I’m glad I bought several extra water tanks. I’m glad I didn’t cut down all of the hedge trees out there. I’m glad I under-stocked my farm leaving me with options to handle heat stress and inexperience. Unfortunately, the cows are translocating nutrients from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill, where the trees are. That’s not desirable…but we’ll work with what we’ve got and plant more trees in coming years.
Two other notes:
- The neighbor’s cows are all pretending to be hippopotami to deal with the heat and flies, especially the ones without black hides.
- The Jersey cows don’t seem to notice the heat. They graze all day.
One final note, much of this thinking carries through well to pet dogs…if that’s what you have for livestock.