“ A cow that is too hot, you can see it immediately. She has trouble breathing, just like us when we are out of breath ; they say she pumps. She is not comfortable »explains Loïc  on Report. Since the beginning of the heat wave, the cattle breeder has installed in a farm with limited liability (EARL) on 150 hectares (ha) in Tilh (Landes) with his parents, goes every two hours to visit his 35 mothers and 50 fattening cows. So far, everyone is fine, but the breeder is still very much on guard. “ I prefer to intervene before one of them is down. I check that they drink enough. Saturday will be very hot again. We will see. »
On Friday, June 17, Landes went on red alert “ absolutely » heat wave, as well as thirteen other departments in the southwestern quarter of France. Temperatures were expected to exceed 35 ° C or even 40 ° C locally, such as around Mont-de-Marsan. In the approximately 800 cattle farms in the department, mainly specializing in beef cows, breeders and animals stick out their tongues. In an article published Wednesday, the specialized information site Web-agri warned of one “ lethal thermal risk » for cattle on Saturdays in Landes. Since Wednesday, as in all the other departments in orange and red vigilance, the transport of animals has been banned between 13.00 and 18.00 in order to at least spare the animals from the cattle wagons’ furnace. To cope with this, the Hagetmau slaughterhouse had to bring teams back in the evening to receive the animals, which arrived much later than usual.
The greatest risk for animals is heat stroke and its proportion of very serious complications – neurological problems, cerebral edema, kidney failure. Veterinarian specializing in cattle based in Amou, Dr. Alizé Duhalde notes that the number of inquiries for medical reasons is rising during heat spikes. She also encountered her first serious case Thursday morning – a two-month-old blond Aquitaine calf. “ The breeder called me because he remained stretched out, lying on the ground, with heavy and breathing breathingshe describes to Report. I went there as soon as possible because it is a vital emergency. » When he arrived, the animal was very depressed and sweating profusely, with severe difficulty breathing and almost blue mucous membranes. His body temperature had risen to 41.5 ° C instead of the 39 ° C usually seen in calves at his age.
Immediately the vet and the breeder gave him shock treatment to save him. “ We showered him with a garden hose and laid wet sheets on his back. I also infused him intravenously to bring him sugar and rehydrate him – he had not fed his mother since the day before – but especially to flush the liver and kidneys, which suffered enormously from the heat. We also gave him anti-inflammatory drugs to shock him and supportive treatment of the heart, which beat very fast but very weakly. », says the vet. Friday afternoon the calf was a little better but was not out of the woods yet.
“ In some buildings where ventilation is poor, mercury can easily rise above 40 ° C »
Nothing lets predict this collapse of the beast. The well-ventilated building was in the shade. The other calves in his barn did not seem to suffer too much. In the affected calf, the veterinarian suspects a heart problem that has not been detected until now. This is the perverse effect of extreme temperatures, which can cause the weakest animals to suddenly decompensate. “ The problems show up especially on animals that are already weakened in addition »confirms colleague of Alizé Duhalde, Dr Guillaume Habert. Most often, these are very young calves or calves suffering from diarrhea or dairy cows in intensive production or fattening. Breeding conditions can also accelerate the onset of the disease. “ In some buildings where ventilation is poor and where animals and manure produce heat, the mercury can easily rise above 40 ° C or even 50 ° C. »remember the vet.
Fortunately, prevention generally remains effective. And extensive models seem to show their superiority over intensive farming. “ In Landes there are not many intensive dairy farms. In general, the animals go out a lot and the meadows are in the shade »appreciates Dr Duhalde. As part of its protected geographical indication (BGB) Chalosse beef, Loïc leaves its cows outside for eight months a year. “ Of course, they have access to stables, but they appreciate being in shady meadows, under the trees. », states the breeder. When the partners launched the grease workshop in 2015, they were also keen to adapt the buildings and build them large enough for good ventilation. And carefully prepare for the violent episodes. “ We cleaned the building last week to avoid overheating of the manure, and we offered the cows a cure with vitamin C, homeopathy and trace elements at the beginning of the week. », says Loïc. Dietary supplements that do not directly affect the heat, but strengthen the animals to help them through the heatwave episode.
François Souarn, who is installed on 150 hectares with two partners in Nassiet, has noticed that his herd of 120 cows has withstood the heat better since the start of the conversion to organic in 2018. “ Cows eat less richly, produce less milk and therefore become less stressed by heathe states. Before, when temperatures rose in the building, they clumped together and seemed uncomfortable. Ten to fifteen years ago, I even saw some of them stick their tongues out and gasp. I have never observed this behavior since. »
Nevertheless, global warming will be an increasingly difficult challenge to face in the coming years, Loïc believes. “ You have to anticipate, prepare. What bothers me today is that we only worry about the heat when it is already there. The multiplication of these peaks as soon as the young people settle, the construction of buildings and the organization of slaughterhouses should be taken into account. »