May 16, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

With milk prices at the lowest in more than 20 years, producers are doing everything they can to keep their enterprises afloat. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts a marginal increase in milk price in July or August for Class III milk, which is the milk used mainly for cheese production. Beyond that, milk prices are predicted to remain low.

“Producers need to focus on maintaining high milk production this summer,” said Bill Crist, University of Kentucky dairy specialist. “During hot weather cows can decrease production by 10 to 20 pounds of milk a day and that adds up to $150 to $200 a day in a 100-cow herd.”

Crist said the first step to get ready for summer heat is to provide shade. Removing sides of freestall barns will allow air to circulate through the barn to cool cows.

“We are fortunate in Kentucky to almost always have a breeze blowing,” he said. “Shade for cows with good exposure to air flow goes a long way in keeping cows cool.”

Fans installed over feedbunks and freestalls can assist the wind and increase airflow and cow comfort.

Crist said spraying cows with water also could increase cooling. The spraying system usually is set up at the feedbunk.

“Cows should be sprayed with water until their skin is soaked, then turn the water off,” he said. “There are now timers on the market that will turn the water on for two or three minutes to soak the cows, then turn the water off for about 12 minutes while the fans blow air over the cows to evaporate the water. As the temperature rises, the time the water is shut off is reduced to increase cooling of the cows.”

While keeping cows cool is important during summer months, producers should keep in mind that the main reason cows drop milk production in hot weather is because they eat less. Crist said cows need to be kept close to fresh feed and water. He added that shade tress may be a cool place for cows, but if they are not close to feed and water, milk production will drop.

“Many Kentucky dairy farmers are building freestall barns to keep cows cool in hot summer months,” he said. “These barns have good exposure to the wind. They are high at the eaves – at least 12 feet high – with a good slope to the roof and an open peak to allow hot air to escape. They also allow the farmer to keep cows close to feed and water.”

Crist added that farmers should not forget about cooling cows in holding pens. 

“They may be there only a short time, but they are usually packed close together,” he said. “The holding pen is a good place for a sprinkling system to wet the cows and fans to evaporate the water from the cows.”


Bill Crist  859-257-7543