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Only feeding a buffer to prevent your cows during heat stress is NOT enough!

When the real hot days are coming a lot of farmers in Europe will start feeding buffers or other products to support rumen function (sodium bicarbonate, yeast) to their lactating cows. This is certainly not bad, but NOT enough! Buffers or other products to support the rumen function are primarily designed to alleviate the effects of rumen acidosis which can be induced by reduced rates of saliva recycling and fibre intake which are typical during periods of heat stress.

08-06-2023, updated on 08-06-2023

Alleviate or prevent the impacts of heat stress?

When you start preparing your heat stress prevention plan for coming summer is it important to consider what kind of nutritional products you like to feed, to which groups of cows and what are the goals you like to achieve? Do you want to alleviate or prevent the impacts of heat stress? It is worth remembering that most of the “heat stress nutritional products” are designed to alleviate the impacts of heat stress, and as such address the consequences instead of preventing heat stress from occurring in the first place:  you may want to consider alternative solutions that have been shown to prevent the effects of heat stress taking hold, rather than those which aim to reduce existing symptoms. 

Different types of nutritional products to support dairy cows during heat stress

In this blog we will focus on a quick overview of the different types of nutritional products that are used to support dairy cows during heat stress. These products can be classified according to their targeted effect, and some examples include:
1.    Feedstuffs that increase energy density in the diet (by-pass fat): these help to support energy supply when intake is compromised. Besides being energy dense, fat does not ferment, so produces little heat during digestion.
2.    Buffers or others to support rumen function (sodium bicarbonate, yeast): these products are primarily designed to alleviate the effects of rumen acidosis which can be induced by reduced rates of saliva recycling and fibre intake which are typical during periods of heat stress.
3.    Minerals/electrolytes to rehydrate the animal (potassium): there is some debate about the relevance of sweating in cows, but we do know they lose potassium in their sweat.
4.    Metabolites that support vasodilatation or osmoregulation (niacin, betaine): these products assist with peripheral heat dissipation and cell hydration.
5.    Products that support general metabolic and immune functions: immune function is affected at times of heat stress.

Dry and lactating cows

It is also worth remembering that the majority of these ingredients are intended to support lactating cows during heat stress. Whilst the impact of heat stress is very apparent in lactating cows: they eat less and make less milk of lower quality, excessive heat and humidity can also affect non-lactating animals, with the ensuing symptoms not always as obvious as those seen in the milking herd. High yielding dairy cows work at a high metabolic rate across most of their production cycle, including most of the dry period when intense tissue restoration must take place. Dry cows are often forgotten, but cows affected by heat stress during the dry period have been shown to make less milk during the subsequent lactation. It is therefore imperative to include dry cows in your heat stress management plans and to implement nutritional solutions to support these cows as well.

OmniGen for heat stress

Several research studies have been published over the last few years on the impacts of feeding OmniGen to lactating AND dry cows during heat stress: the findings include lower respiration rate and body temperatures, and higher DMI and milk yield. These research results suggest OmniGen can play a role as part of a sound nutritional strategy to support dairy cow health and productivity during heat stress. 
Do you want to know more how OmniGen can support your cows during periods of heat stress? 
Please contact our dairy technical specialist.


Arnout Dekker
Arnout Dekker
Arnout Dekker is the Marketing Manager Europe of Phibro and has 7 years experience as a veterinarian. He is passionate about cows, dairy farm advisory and farm management. Helping farmers with advice and proven products to keep their cows healthy, produce better, be more profitable and sustainable is what drives and motivates him.

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