This summer has been a scorcher. All across the United States, temperatures spiked, bringing on heatwaves that made August 2020 the third warmest on record. These extreme weather patterns create problems for the dairy industry by impairing milk production and lowering cattle reproduction rates.
What’s different this year are the unpredictable consequences of COVID-19. The virus has resulted in huge fluctuations for dairy prices and cautious reductions of dairy herd sizes. The outlook of the dairy industry may be complex, but there’s evidence that seaweed feed supplements can help control costs as farmers deal with heat stress in dairy cows.
With COVID-19 sweeping the globe, there have been some unexpected repercussions for dairy farmers. Initially, the loss of bulk purchases from schools and restaurants forced many dairy farmers to dispose of their milk in a year that was shaping up to surpass previous production rates.
In fact, the USDA recorded greater milk production per cow across a number of states until April, when more stringent restrictions went into effect and production
dropped. Since then, the dairy industry has had to deal with a number of unpredictable twists and turns.
Prices for all types of milk have fluctuated between extremes. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed to the prices of Class III milk, which jumped from $17 per hundredweight of milk in January to $12 in May and $22 in recent weeks. Although there’s been a relative resurgence in demand, some industry experts are t
hinking of this as a “sugar high” that will quickly disappear as states begin to close down again in the fall and winter.
In anticipation of the decline, dairy farmer
s have been reducing their herd head count, increasing the sales of dairy cattle to slaughterhouses. With reduced herd sizes, the remaining dairy cattle need to be extra efficient when producing milk, even under punishing conditions. Dairy cattle feed efficiency is all the more important as other costs grow in their unpredictability, and temperatures and humidity push the body heat of cattle above what they handle on their own.
Brown seaweed is one proven way for dairy cattle to better regulate their body heat and stress during times of extreme temperatures. Studies of Ascophyllum nodosum show a variety of positive effects on cattle from higher milk production rates to improved temperature control.
In one trial, Kansas State University used 24 lactating Holsteins to determine how Tasco® feed supplement helped with milk production during summer heat stress. Adding a small amount of brown seaweed to the standard feed regimen of corn silage, whole cottonseed, chopped alfalfa, sweet brain, and a mixture of grains contributed to greater milk production and milk protein production in the Tasco®-fed group.
Other trials have shown the potency of seaweed in helping cattle to regulate their internal temperatures. Under trial conditions, 32 cows were randomly assigned to different feed ration groups, and those fed 0.25% Tasco had a reduced body temperature response when the ambient temperatures increased. This prevented a reduction of dry matter intake, which is more likely to occur in the blistering summer months, and maintained reliable milk production.
With the cost-effectiveness of seaweed compared to other feed supplements, dairy farmers can control the cost of the nutritional regimen for their reduced herd size. Though COVID-19 provides plenty of challenges, maximizing your yield during the stressful summer months shouldn’t be a problem.
Want to learn more about how seaweed can help overcome heat stress in dairy cows? Contact us to receive information about Tasco® trials in your region.