Dairy farmers have dealt with a number of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shutdowns caused restaurants and businesses to reduce dairy orders. Then, it became difficult to find feed and routine vaccines for animals.
Now, they can add hot weather to the list. Upstate New York has dealt with several stretches of hot and humid weather, which is less than ideal for cows.
“If it’s too hot for too long, everyone’s uncomfortable, and it really takes a bigger toll on the cows because they’re just bigger animals,” says Emily Ooms, a herdsperson at A. Ooms & Sons Dairy Farm.
The warm weather also creates a production problem. When cows are overheated, they don’t have as much usable milk, which could lead to a decrease in profit.
There are about 140 cows in the A. Ooms & Sons milking barn. Despite the close quarters, the cows are kept cool using about a dozen automatic fans.
“They’re all on thermostats, so they turn on when it hits about 62 degrees out, so that we can make sure the air is moving,” says Ooms. “Cows are most comfortable right in that about 50-60-degree range, so we want to keep it as cool in here as possible.”
The farm also keeps track of each cow’s temperature and watches to make sure they don’t become too warm.
At this point, the weather is just one other thing farmers are prepared to deal with.
“COVID has made things a little more challenging, but it’s just another hurdle we’ll get through,” says Ooms.