Heat Stress Evaporates Midwest Milk Production

July 6, 2012 09:05 AM


Dairy producers across the Upper Midwest are reporting cows are eating and milking less due to this week’s stretch of often-record breaking heat and humidity. Temperatures have exceeded 100°F several days this week, dew points have been above 70°F, and worst of all, night time lows rarely fell below 80°F.

Eric Lang, who dairies with his brother near Brooklyn, Iowa an hour east of Des Moines, says milk production is off 20% since the heat wave hit. That’s even with a herd of 60% Jerseys, he says. A storm early this week dropped 1 ¾" of rain, saving the Lang’s corn crop.

Mark Berning, who also dairies with his brother near Monticello, Minn., a half hour west of Minneapolis, says their Holsteins are down five to six pounds/cow/day. "Feed intakes are holding pretty good despite that," he says.

Rick Lundquist, a dairy nutritionist, says he has not seen a large drop in production with his Midwest clients, particularly in herds with fans and misters running 24/7. One large client in eastern Wisconsin, with 5,000 cows in cross vent barns, actually lost cows last year because he did not have sprinklers. This year, sprinklers not only have saved cows, they’ve hardly missed a beat through this recent hot spell.

Dairy processors are still assessing how much milk has been lost. Foremost Farms, with members farms in seven states across the Midwest, estimates production is down anywhere from 5% to 10%. "Milk receipts and plant intakes are down significantly," says Joan Behr, Foremost spokesperson, based in Baraboo, Wis. So far, the co-op has not had to curtail orders to its customers, she says.

Clint Fall, president of First District Association in Litchfield, Minn., says his milk receipts are down an estimated four to five percent. Producers he’s talked to say production is off three to five lb./cow/day. "If we get some cooling this weekend, production might rebound some," he says.

If the heat abates, he and others are actually expecting a mini-flush of production in late July and August. That’s because heat stress last summer delayed breeding. Many of those cows are now, finally, due to calve.

Berning is a case in point. "We didn’t breed anything last July because of the heat," he says. "I normally calve in 25 head per month. We’re calving 35 a month in June, July and August this year."

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