June 15, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

Like most animals, dairy cows need plenty of water, especially in hot summer months.  They need water to drink and water to cool their bodies.  Soaking cows with water and using fans to keep the air moving over them is the best way to keep cows cool in the barn or milking parlor this summer.

“The temperature determines how often cows need to be soaked with water,” said Bill Crist, University of Kentucky Extension dairy specialist.  “Under severe heat stress, cows should be soaked every five minutes, along with fans to blow fresh air over them.  Under less severe stress, soaking can be cut back to every 10 to 15 minutes.“

Crist said dairy cattle producers can find sprinkler systems on the market that will automatically vary the sprinkling cycle depending on the temperature.  Cows must be sprinkled with large droplets of water because the key to cooling is soaking them and not using a mist or fine spray.

“It’s also important to be sure cows have plenty of drinking water,” Crist said.  “Shade is also a must.  Free-stall barns should have the sides removed in the summer to provide as much fresh air as possible.  If you are building a new free-stall barn, make sure you build one with high sidewalls – at least 10 to 12 feet high.  They should also have a good slope on the roof with an open ridge vent to allow hot, humid air to flow up to the underside of the roof and out the top.”

A large roof overhang provides shade for cows and protection of the free stalls from adverse weather.

Another factor to consider in hot, humid conditions is the high risk of environmental mastitis.  Crist said cows should be vaccinated with an E coli mastitis vaccine to reduce the risk of acute mastitis.

“The cows’ environment should be kept as clean as possible,” he said.  “In free-stall barns, sand is the best choice for bedding.  If you use sawdust, add clean sawdust to the back of the stalls at least every other day.  You should move cows on pasture from time to time to keep them from lying down in the same place all the time.”


Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Bill Crist 859-257-7537