While it is clear that shade is beneficial and valuable to cows at pasture, cooling with water when at the dairy is more efficient in reducing respiration rate and body temperature. The body temperature of dairy cattle often peaks during the afternoon milking, when it is affected, in part, by the distance and speed of the walk to dairy.
Sprinklers (and shade) at afternoon milking are effective ways to reduce heat load. Sprinklers alone, and sprinklers combined with shade, reduced respiration rate by 60 and 67%, respectively, compared with no cooling. Standing under shade and sprinklers while waiting to be milked both reduced body temperature, compared with no cooling.
Cooling with sprinklers can lower the body temperature for at least four hours after milking. However, on cooler days e.g. when THI <69 (equivalent to 21°C and 75% humidity), sprinklers may cool too much.
There is evidence that New Zealand cows find sprinklers aversive and prefer shade over sprinklers23. Research showed that 62% of cows preferred shade despite sprinklers being more efficient in reducing heat load and insect avoidance behaviours.
High voluntary use of sprinklers by cows has been reported in warmer climates, such as in California, thus indicating that water may be heavily used and beneficial in specific situations. Reasons for the difference between countries may be that the cooler weather conditions reduce voluntary use of water sprinklers, or due to the high levels of solar radiation in New Zealand.
SmartShelters have a range of suitable shelters for your dairy cow and herd health including loafing barns, compost barns and calf shelters.