When the mercury rises, milk declines – as far as milk production goes at dairy farms. "The heat is very concerning because if the cows don't eat the feed, they don't produce the milk," said Noel Rosa.
Noel Rosa of M.F. Rosa Dairy in Hanford milks 1,000 cows twice a day. But milk production can drop when temperatures get unbearably hot. "Milk production is all correlated with how much the cows eat so if the cows are hot, they don't feel like eating," said Rosa. "They don't produce as much milk."
That's why dairy farmers take extra measures to keep their cows happy. "We have the soakers spraying water on the cows. We have the fans blowing air over the cows that have recently been soaked to get an evaporative cooling effect," said Rosa.
The fans inside the shaded free-stall barn don't seem to get a break as they're constantly running to keep the cows cool while they eat, drink and rest. "It's very expensive to run the fans. It does pay -- not only in the production level of the cows but the overall health of the cow is improved," said Rosa.
Fans are also running while the cows get milked in the milking parlor. Once out, they go through motion-censored shower heads that keep them cool throughout the day. "If we didn't have these measures in place and we had an extended heat wave, our milk production would probably drop. Instead of dropping 5 to 10 percent, we'd probably see a 25 to 30 percent decline of milk production," said Rosa.
Aside from these cooling efforts, the cows are fed later in the evening instead of early in the day so they have fresh feed that will entice them to eat and produce more milk.