As the temperatures skyrocket, so do the bills for air conditioning and ice cream runs. The humid air and scorching sun lead to a summer wardrobe of flip flops, shorts, and the loosest shirts available, a stash of sun block and aloe, and plenty of other solutions to keeping cool until fall.
But for dairy farmers, the summer solutions to keeping cool cannot apply only to them. The herds they care for prefer cooler temperatures. To keep these cows feeling comfortable, the farm needs plenty of tricks to keep cows happy and healthy.
Here are 6 cool cow facts for how (and why) cows beat the summer heat:
1. Keeping dairy cows cool in the summertime is important in keeping milk production and cow health up. Heat stress can cause a loss in appetite, leading to a drop in milk production, but it can also weaken the cow’s immune system.
2. Many dairy farmers equip their cow barns with fans and misters. Fans are important to keeping the hot, humid air circulating, but attaching misters or sprinklers to fans helps drop the barn’s temperature. (Think of past visits to theme parks and the jokes that the best rides to stand in line for are the mister stations. The water from fans brings quick relief.) Misters are used to cool the air in the barn (the water evaporates in the air) while heavier sprinkler systems cool the cow (the water reaches the cow and evaporates on her).
3. The design of the barn helps, too. Tunnel barns are long buildings that have fans at each end to pull air through the barn and out the other end, keeping temperatures cool. Another type is a freestall barn, which is open and provides shade while better allowing cows access to whatever they want.
4. Cows need shade, inside and outside of the barn. While a hot summer day may mean more cows are finding shade under a tree or a creek to cool off in, it’s needed in the barn, too. Cows rest for most of the day, so the barn needs to block out the sun in the summer for the cows that don’t want to move from their cool sand beds. Shades can make up the exterior walls of barns that are controlled by a thermostat, opening or closing depending on the temperature, or they can be simple but effective immobile structures that block the hot sun.
5. Staying hydrated is important. Like us, cows need to drink water to stay cool and hydrated. Cows can drink as much as 50 gallons of water each day, so they need continuous access to a fresh water supply.
6. Activity trackers help keep cows cool. Some dairy farms place trackers on their cows to monitor their health, movement, and production, like a special Fitbit for cows. If a cow begins panting harder, the farmer can see through data where the cow was when this started, helping pinpoint areas that need more technology to keep the herd cool.
For more cow facts, read these 10 Surprising Cow Facts That’ll Blow Your Spots Off!