Hot, hotter, heat stress: How smaXtec can support you

Cows are herd animals and are originally from colder climate zones. That is why cows feel most comfortable at temperatures between 7°C and 17°C. High temperatures during the summer months can be very difficult for the animals to deal with.

In the following article we take a look at the questions, how you can detect heat stress in your animals and what effects high temperatures have on cows. Additionally, we talk about how smaXtec can help you to intervene at an early stage and which technical tools can support you to guarantee a healthy climate in the barn.

Cows are generally relatively resistant to cold, but they are not resistant to heat. On summer days with outside temperatures of 30°C and over and a relative humidity from 35% to 50%, body temperature as well as surface temperature often increases massively. [1]

Frequent symptoms and consequences of heat stress

If cows are suffering from heat stress the following symptoms often occur:

  • elevated body temperature
  • elevated breathing frequency (>80/min); puffing and panting are visible
  • head and neck are stretched
  • animals increasingly stand close to windows, doors or other better ventilated areas; cows crowd around watering places.
  • animals are rather inactive and stand around a lot; they spend less time than normal laying down
  • reduced feed intake (at temperatures around 26°C approx. 5% less, at 35°C and higher upto 20% less) [1] [2]

The hypothermic burden is difficult for the animals to deal with and can have serious consequences:

  • the reduction in feed intake increases the risk of ketosis in high-performance animals
  • lack of water intake as cows do not drink enough although sufficient water is available
  • milk urea content rises
  • milk yield decreases
  • milk fat content decreases
  • the cell count in the milk increases as concentrated feed is eaten in large amounts and insufficient basic feed is eaten
  • fertility suffers – cows show less signs of coming into heat and pregnancy rates drop; increase in the rejection rate
  • in the case of persistent heat, the risk of mastitis, laminitis and ruminal acidosis increases
  • emigration of pathogenic germs from the digestive tract (E. coli)

If cows have to deal with very severe heat stress, it can lead to much more serious problems and even to death. [1]

How is heat stress measured?

Heat stress can be measured using the temperature humidity index (THI). The THI is calculated with a formula that is composed of air temperature and relative humidity:

THI = (absolute temperature °C) + (0.36 * temperature of dew point °C) + 41.2

The result can be interpreted to detect possible heat stress.

  • THI ≥ 72: early stage of heat stress
  • THI ≥ 78: significant heat load
  • THI ≥ 82: severe heat stress [1]

smaXtec and heat stress

In the smaXtec system not only the Base Station, Repeater and Boluses are included, but also a Climate Sensor, which measures temperature and humidity in the barn. This enables you to keep an eye on conditions in the barn and their possible effects on your cows. The Climate Sensor automatically calculates the THI and transmits the data directly to smaXtec Messenger and the smaXtec App, where it is displayed in a chart. If the THI is higher than normal, you receive a notification and are able to immediately take measures to improve the climate in the barn.

In combination with the data collected by the smaXtec Boluses, e.g. body temperature, it is possible to draw reliable conclusions about heat stress.

Here’s an example of how smaXtec depicts heat stress in the Messenger App:

Screenshot of a heat stress example curve from the smaXtec Messenger

Measures to reduce heat stress

To help keep your animals as stress free as possible, try to prevent heat stress or take measures to keep the THI in your barn low.

When planning and building a new barn, a few things, that help to make the barn climate bearable for dairy cattle and prevent heat stress, should be taken into consideration. Here you should pay attention to open side walls, concrete bases and no extensions of the barn which prevent ventilation. In addition, the radiant heat should be reduced by bright, insulated roofs or cold roofs and attention should be paid to a sufficient water supply.

But there are also a number of measures that can be installed retroactively or used as needed.

  • Fans – axial fans and ceiling fans

Fans cool the temperature down and prevent trapped heat by continuous heat movement in the barn. It must be ensured that the fans are placed in such a way that the cows in the cubicles are cooled. But even in the dry area, waiting area and milking parlor, animals often suffer from heat stress. Here, the fans do not only cool the air, but also drive flies away.

  • “Cow showers”

Firstly, it must be said that these “cow showers”  may even increase heat stress if used incorrectly because of added humidity. Thus they must be used carefully. It is recommended to install such systems in particularly airy stables, as there a high air exchange rate can be guaranteed.

“Cow showers” can occur as low- and high-pressure systems. These facilities spray water in large droplets (low-pressure systems) or finely atomised (high-pressure systems) on the animals. In low-pressure systems, the animals get wet and when they dry evaporating cooling develops. The system should be provided with a timer and sprinkle water on the animals in intervals. In addition, fans should be installed, which blow the moisture out of the barn and keep the humidity at a tolerable level for the cows. In high-pressure systems, the animals do not get wet, but here the water mist extracts heat from the air. [3]

These measures are particularly important for the well-being and health of cows. However, technical aids such as fans and cow showers need a lot of energy. Therefore, targeted control is very important.

Such targeted use is difficult to plan, as the need is often difficult to detect by visual observation. This is where the smaXtec system can help you! Based on the Climate Sensor data and notifications you can decide if and which measures need to be taken. This not only saves energy, but also money and improves the well-being of your animals.



[1]  https://www.raumberg-gumpenstein.at/cm4/de/forschung/publikationen/downloadsveranstaltungen/finish/1905-nutztierschutztagung-2014/16737-hitzestress-bei-milchkuehen.html.

[2] https://ooe.lko.at/media.php?filename=download%3D%2F2018.05.28%2F1527498566400128.pdf&rn=Hitzestress%20bei%20K%C3%BChen.pdf.

[3] https://noe.lko.at/hitzestress-im-milchviehstall+2500+2464412

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