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Heat may lower milk production, drive up prices

The heat is having a big impact on the Valley's dairy industry -- threatening to lower milk production and raise the price we pay for milk.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The heat is having a big impact on the Valley's dairy industry -- threatening to lower milk production and raise the price we pay for milk.

The triple-digit temperatures have dairy farmers working hard to make sure their cows stay comfortable and milk production doesn't fall too behind.

At Medeiros and Son Dairy outside of Hanford, the milk barn is the tightest spot for cows, and in the past, depending on where they're standing, they can either get really cool or really hot. This year, Brian Medeiros used new technology to find out how his cows were handling the hot weather.

"So we had some infrared cameras come in and take pictures of the cows to see which ones were hot and which ones were cool. We had some cows that were 65 degrees and some that were 115," said Medeiros.

To make sure the wealth of fans and water were more evenly spread out, Medeiros doubled the number of fans and installed new water jets within the last few weeks. He said it's already paying off.

"We've definitely seen the cows are walking up to the barn a little quicker than they used to because they know they're going to cool down," said Medeiros. "We've also seen that the milk, usually when it heats up it will start decreasing the amount of milk that the cows are making and they're just hanging right on in there."

On a day like Monday, where it rose to 106 degrees on his dairy farm, the additional cooling measures can make all the difference. He said cows suffer heat stress quicker than humans, making them less likely to produce as much milk. He's hoping by making the cows more comfortable they'll be under less duress in the heat, giving his family less to worry about at a time when feed prices are soaring.

Though the drought is affecting feed costs, milk prices are up. Many dairies closed down during the recent recession, and now there is a higher demand for milk worldwide.

"I think that has a little bit to do with it. Dairy farmers are really good at making milk, so whenever we see there's a demand we'll make sure we can supply the markets but that's been some of it, with the dairies closing down in the state," said Medeiros.

Medeiros says during last summer's 45-day stretch of above 100 degree temperatures, milk production went down as much as 20 percent.

Related Topics:
food agriculture ag watch kings county Hanford
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