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Heat stress in cows: dynamic ventilation during summer

29/04/2016

The “Tenuta di Rimale” is a family owned farm located near Parma which hosts about 260 Frisona dairy cows whose milk is mainly used to produce the famous Parmigiano Reggiano.
Count Antonio Corbellini Omati carries on the business with his brother Gianmaria, and he opened the doors of his farm to us for a nice chat about the approaching hot season and the importance of ventilation to reduce the animal heat stress.

General situation:

In Italy and in general in the Mediterranean countries summer can be pretty hot. During springtime, temperature can  easily reach up to 23-25°C on a sunny day.
For cows this means hyperventilation, loss of appetite, drop in milkproduction and other symptoms related to heat stress.
During summer, cows can spend from 2 hours under heat stress in countries like UK, till 10 hours in Czech Republic and North of France and more than half a day (13-18 hours) in Italy and Spain.
Such data show that during the hot season farmers could face a loss of milk production between 3-8 liters per day per cow and, at the end of the year, it can significantly affect the balance sheet.
Surely,  air circulation has a positive effect since it accelerates the evaporation and the heat dispersion by animals, thus favoring the removal of hot and humid air present in the shelters.

Case study:

At Tenuta di Rimale, the great experience gained over the years by Antonio and Gianmaria allows them  to maintain a satisfactory production even in summer with a production of 34 kg of milk per cow per day.
These results can be achieved only by equipping the barn with an appropriate ventilation system which follow 4 main key-points:

– Uniformity: the fans should be installed in a structured way, at the correct distance from one another and on the whole barn surface. To ensure the same ventilation ratio throughout the environment is crucial for the animal welfare, it also prevents the cows from standing only in the well-ventilated areas, which could result in reduced rest periods, lower milk production and increased incidence of lameness.

–  Inclination: it can often seem a trivial minor detail, but also the fan angle can affect the THI (Temperature Humidity Index). Cows need the airfloe hit to them directly with a recommended speed of 1.1 m / sec and, from the food area to the rest one, the inclination needs to change. For this reason, when a new project must be designed, the cows position inside the barn must be taken into account.

– Prevention: don’t wait the hottest peak before turning on the fans. At Tenuta di Rimale the circulation fans cool the cows already starting from 18°C in order to gradually prepare them to face the summer. The required standard is 1.1 m / s to ensure an ideal air flow.

– Maintenance: to schedule a preventive maintenance can help ensure optimal performances. Belt tensioning rather than a net cleaning surely serve to let the fan work in optimum conditions, keeping constant performances over the years.

Antonio and Gianmaria consciously chose dynamic ventilation for their barns and installed both BKF and EOR circulation fans. Ceiling ventilation was avoided because it show lack in performances: it can definitely move large quantities of air, but it cannot reach the desired speed. Also by the installation of several ceiling fans, it is impossible guarantee an uniform ventilation due to the formation of large air cones.

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