Dairy Cow Stress is Complicated

Research and resources
to help you manage through it.

Photo: Schaefer Panel fans from Pinnacle Climate Technologies

Stress hurts your cows, you and your staff.

More than 30 different stress factors affect the health and performance of your dairy cows. All can interact, multiplying negative health consequences for your cows and your cost of production. Plus, when your cows are stressed, you’re stressed and so are the people around you and your cows. Learn about the many different stress factors and solutions to reduce their damage.

There’s a lot of stress out there.

Jefo Dairy Cow Stressors

Our industry tends to view stressors one at a time. But stress is much more complicated and wide-ranging. Stress can surround cows at virtually all times in different ways. Some cows are more affected by it than others.

Genetics plays a big role, but so does management and nutrition. It takes a whole farm approach to keep cows comfortable, healthy and producing.

Identify potential stressors on your farm.

Stage of production

Stage of production

  • Dry-off
  • Close up
  • Calving
  • Just fresh
  • Peak milk
  • Breeding
  • Calf weaning



  • Heat stress
  • Cold, humidity, light
  • Adverse weather events
  • Excessive rain, snow



  • Stocking density
  • Group changes
  • Mixed parity groupings
  • Bunk space
  • Health status
  • Lameness
  • Housing type
  • Ventilation
  • Lighting
  • Human-animal interactions
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  • Feed availability and quality
  • Feeding frequency
  • Water supply and quality
  • Ration balance
  • Feed changes



  • Metabolic Disease:
    • Related to transition period
    • Clinical & subclinical ketosis
    • Milk fever
    • Metritis
  • Rumen & Gut Health:
    • Clinical & subclinical acidosis
    • Inflammation
    • Lameness
    • Mastitis

Stress factors build on each other.

Intuitively, in your own life, you recognize the risk of multiple stressors building on top of each other. Some days it can reach a point where everything comes crashing down. We call it the Jenga® Effect.

For your cows, stressors can trigger all sorts of negative outcomes: reduced longevity, poor reproductive performance, immune dysfunction, lower milk production and component yield, and more.

Knowing how stressors interact – and how you can manage them – will help you keep your cows producing at a high level and help prevent unnecessary revenue losses.

How stress gets magnified

Chris Gwyn, Jefo North America ruminant business development manager, explains how stress factors interact and make things worse for you and your cows.

Manage every stressor to avoid intensifying effects.

Although you already manage a lot, you can’t afford to give any stress factor a free pass. Here are some solutions to help manage stress wherever it attacks across the farm.

Focused investment on each stage:

  • Dry-off
  • Close up
  • Calving
  • Fresh peak
  • Breeding
  • Calf weaning

Implement a whole farm approach

Add heat abatement strategies

Avoid overcrowding

Deliver feed during the coolest time of the day

Increase nutrient density of the ration

Feed high-quality forages

Increase feeding frequency

Avoid heating of the ration

Implement a precision nutrition strategy with protected B vitamins

Protect animals from cold stress, excessive snow

Ensure good air quality

Access to quality water

Adapted light program

Animal comfort

Ensure adequate feed and resting space

Prevention strategy for metabolic disease

Zero lameness program

Train employees about proper animal interactions

Avoid overcrowding

Minimize negative energy balance

Prioritize rumen health

Ensure best quality feeds

Supply essential nutrients in a form that guarantees the right level is absorbed by the cow: Protected B Vitamins, Vitamins A, D & E, protected Selenium

Manage, prevent and treat – even at the subclinical or moderate stages

Use precision technology to help identify problems early

Supply essential nutrients to support a cow’s health and metabolic well-being

Zero lameness program

Don’t give any stress factor a free pass.

Jefo Dairy Cow

When your cows are stressed, your own level of stress can rise. If you’re feeling it, let’s talk about how we can help you chill.

Heat Stress is Overrated

Every stressor can affect performance and profitability.

Heat stress attracts a lot of attention, yet the dozens of different stressors shown above can affect cow health and performance and your farm’s profitability.

Social stressors come from a variety of sources. Nutritional stressors can be physiological or they can be perceptual. With potential for stressors to trigger negative outcomes looming large, nutrition has to play a vital protective role.

Magnifying Dairy Stress

Stress factors interact, compounding the original issue and reducing revenue.

You see it in your cows. You know it about yourself. Stress grows. One stressful event creates stress elsewhere in your day and can even spread to those around you. The compounding effects of stress tell us that we can’t put stress factors such as heat, overcrowding, lameness, noise, weaning and more into silos. We view stress holistically. We help you care for your cows in the same way.

It’s the strain that matters.

Cows are stressed. The strain is how they respond to that stress, says Dr. Matthew Lucy, Ph.D., in a Jefo RumiNation podcast episode. Consider two cows who have the same levels of postpartum BHB but react differently. Or cows in a crowd, each reacting to that stress differently.

Once you have great genetics, management takes over. Great managers pay keen attention to nutrition. There is no substitution for good management and nutrition, says Dr. Lucy.


Your Jefo representative can help you reduce stress levels across the farm. Get ideas for nutrition strategies. Get your hands on more research. Learn more about a protected B vitamin blend and selenium. Or just get a conversation started.


Gabriel Papoi
Email Gabriel

Upper Midwest

Kris Malinov
Email Kris

Kara Ortega

Western Region

Kara Ortega
Email Kara

Sales Director Canada, USA

Chris Gwyn
Email Chris

Ron Jones

Southern Alberta

Ron Jones
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Oswall Villalobos

Quebec and Atlantic Canada

Oswal Villalobos
Email Oswal

Rhod Ross

Northern Alberta, Manitoba

Rhod Ross
Email Rhod

Daniel Gutierrez


Alli Garand
Email Alli