September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Heat-stressed cows and equipment

By Kerry [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

A friend of mine contacted me on Facebook Monday morning. She asked how our cows were handling the heat. She's just a youngster and milks cows with her father. When she asks me questions, I try to give her the best answers possible. If I don't have the solution, I will find it.
Allie, who loves cows way more than I do, lost one of her favorite animals, Honey, due to the nasty, hot, unbearable weather.
Just imagine being a 1,500-pound animal with no effective way to cool down. You wouldn't be able to sweat. The family pool is a no-no and running through the sprinkler is specifically banned because your hooves leave holes in the ground that your youngest child could fall into.
When cows get hot, they stand one place with their tongues hanging out like a tired dog and pant to the best of their ability. Did you know cows can drool a ton?
Cows were not made to cool themselves.
The blistering weather has been an awesome burden on the cows. During a normal heat event, the evenings cool down and give the cows a needed break. This stretch of weather hasn't offered this to our cows.
In our large barn, we installed a sprinkler system. It turns on and off automatically according to the temperature of the air. It's a killer when a person is walking in front of it and unsuspectingly gets a blast of cool water from the sprinkler.
Our cows are fighting for a spot underneath the soaking nozzles.
Monday evening, after sweating my behind off during a VFW Legion Gold ball game in Sleepy Eye, Steve and I ventured out to observe our second group of milking cows that don't have the luxury of a sprinkler system.
They were miserable! If only it was cost effective to put air conditioning in our barns.
Steve wanted to move some close-up heifers into our calving barn so we could keep a close eye on them. I figured the cows would be better off outside where there was a bit of a breeze. Steve obliged and left them out in the pasture.
The heat also takes a toll on our cows' appetites. Who in the world would want to live outside and also have breakfast, lunch and dinner in that environmental oven?
According to Steve's number crunching, each of our cows has dropped in milk production by 20 pounds; because of the heat. That also means that as a whole, the bulk tank contains 30 percent less milk than average.
It's quite obvious the cows are not producing milk when they enter the milking parlor. Their udders look half full. Instead of a nice plump udder, we see udders looking like prunes.
I had to milk Tuesday evening with Joey and Mike, and it wasn't pretty. One of us moved the cows into the parlor and then took a water hose and sprayed every cow across the back. I kept reminding the boys that we need to get the cows in and out of the parlor as fast as possible.
The problem was that once we sprayed the cows with water, they really enjoyed standing in front of the huge fans. It was nearly impossible to keep the cows moving out of the parlor.
Heck, some even returned to the parlor to hog the air movement.
Joey, who cares for the cows more than he cares to admit, brought in a large water barrel and placed it near the entrance to the parlor. He was kind of bummed that the cows didn't drink from it at first, but I assured him that once they realized it was water, we wouldn't be able to keep it full.
Eventually, they did realize it was water and by the end of milking, the barrel was almost empty.
Of course, the heat also pushed our milk-cooling equipment to the brink of death. Tuesday evening, Steve walked past the milk house and thought it "sounded" funny, so he began to investigate. It sounded odd because there was no noise coming from the compressor. The compressor had at some time sprung a leak and not a drop of coolant remained in the system. Thankfully, it had cooled enough that it would be ok through the evening. The following morning the repair guy had it fixed in no time.
We will continue to work our way through the heat. Repairing equipment and giving our utmost attention to the cows and pampering them like they have never been pampered should bring us through this heat.
I know I can't wait for it to subside, and I am pretty sure the cows can't either.
For questions, or comments, e-mail me at [email protected].
Kerry and her husband, Steve, along with their teenage sons, Joey and Russell, operate a 100-cow dairy farm south of New Ulm, Minn. In her spare time, she likes to read, read and read some more. They have three dogs, one gecko, one guinea pig and one house cat that is insane. The 11 barn cats are normal - except for Mitch. There's something wrong with that cat.[[In-content Ad]]


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