It's been a hot couple of weeks. While it's great weather to be at the beach, or inside by the air con, this sort of weather is uncomfortable for cows out in the paddock.

Research has found cows are most comfortable in temperatures between four and 20 degrees Celsius, and that means they feel hot 10 to 15 degrees sooner than us.

When we're too hot we go for a dip, drink some cold water or head into the shade.

Cows also have strategies to cope with the heat such as panting, increasing water intake and decreasing feed intake, which you can also spot through reduced milk production.
They also seek shade, crowd together and avoid lying down.

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So whether you have 500 cows or five, it's important you do everything you can to help your cows feel as comfortable as possible this summer. Below are some simple things you can do to help your cows beat the heat:

1. Ensure flow rates to troughs are high enough and that your cows have access to clean water all day long. Milking cows need more than 100L/day, so a good water system is essential! Most cows like to drink after milking so putting troughs on your races is a quick way to increase water availability.

2. Try to reduce the distance your cows walk to the milking shed, and allow them to take their time.

3. Consider changing your milking times to earlier in the morning, later in afternoon, or going once a day, so your cows aren't having to walk to the shed in the heat of the day.

4. Provide as much shade as possible. Use paddocks with shade trees during particularly hot days and consider other options such as installing a temporary shade cloth at the shed or off paddock facilities.

5. Sprinklers and fans at the cowshed may also keep cows cool.

6. Provide high quality feed at night when it's cooler. Feed with high fibre can increase the heat of fermentation in the rumen, increasing the heat load on the cow.

7. Minimise the amount of handling to reduce stress.

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For those of you working outside at the moment, some of the same principles apply. Look after yourselves – apply sunscreen regularly, get in the shade when you can and make sure you cover yourself when working in the sun.

For more information on how to keep your cows cool, visit dairynz.co.nz/heatstress.