While Thursday’s rain cooled things down a bit, heat is expected to return. And in Kewaunee County a large dairy operation does all it can to keep its cows cool. Local 5’s Kris Schuller says it’s a priority in the healthy production of millions of pounds of milk.
Inside seven freestall barns at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, Greg Bethard has 5,000 reasons to make sure things stay cool.
“Dairy cows struggle a bit when it’s hot, so we’ve got to put a lot of effort forth to keep them cool.”
Bethard is the CFO of this Kewaunee dairy where each month 5,000 cows produce 12 million pounds of milk. His goal year-round is to keep the cows healthy and comfortable. But when there is extreme heat, those tasks take on added urgency.
“Cows don’t have the ability to sweat like we do,“ said Bethard. “So they have a difficult time dissipating all that heat.”
Water is essential when it’s hot. It is sprayed on the cows’ skin where they feed and as they enter the milking parlor. Huge fans also blow air through these tunnel-ventilated barns at 8 miles per hour.
“If you soak their skins and get them wet and blow air across them, it is a great way to reduce body temperature and keep them comfortable,” Bethard said.
Bethard says a cool cow is a happy cow – which means keeping any drop in milk production to a minimum.
“Our cows produce 80 pounds a day, more or less, and we’ll probably lose two or three pounds during the heat,” said Bethard.
While a 15 percent increase in water usage eats into the farm’s bottom-line, Bethard says keeping the animals healthy is a priority. Part of the cost of running one of the largest family owned farms in the state, where there are 5,000 reasons for keeping things cool.