Despite this week’s heat wave that’s seen temperatures hit 110 F and higher, dairy producers in California’s San Joaquin Valley say they and their herds are faring just fine.
Several producers said they hadn’t seen a significant drop in milk production or lost an unusual number of cows after three consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.
“Production has been phenomenal -- 10 pounds more per cow, per day over last year,” said Jamie Bledsoe, whose dairy milks 1,000 cows near Riverdale.
Bledsoe attributed the heat wave’s minimal impact to its short duration, cooler nighttime temperatures, and widespread use of shade, misters and fans to cool cows.
Brian Medeiros said the 2,300 milking cows at his Hanford dairy were avoiding the exercise pens and staying inside the freestall barns, where fans and soakers were “going full blast.”
At his Lemoore dairy, where he milks 1,000 cows, Jake de Raadt said his cows “are making it through OK. For the most part, the herd looks really good. This is nothing like 2006 when we had weeks of high temperatures and then those days of humidity.”
Searing temperatures and unusually high humidity in July 2006 increased cow deaths at dairies across the San Joaquin Valley. At that time, producers reported production drops of 10% to 40%, and an estimated 1% of the state’s dairy herd, or about 16,500 cows, died.
At his 800-cow dairy near Porterville, Tom Barcellos has seen milk production this week hold steady. “At this point, we’re doing fine and maintaining production,” he said. “It’s not an extended heat wave, and it helps that temperatures drop to the 70s at night. With fans, shades and misters, the cows can tolerate it.”
Jared Fernandes, whose family milks 3,000 cows near Tulare, said it was too early to know the full effects of the heat wave but expected his cows to bounce back if production had dropped off.
Yesterday’s high of 111 F in Bakersfield, at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, tied the record for the hottest-ever Aug. 25. The last time temperatures reached that high on that date was in 1931.
The forecast calls for a nearly 30-degree drop in temperatures this weekend. Saturday’s high in Bakersfield is expected to reach only 84, while Sunday will see a high of 80.