Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Barns & Equipment

Whether using a tiestall, freestall, dry lot or pasture, here are some tips for cow comfort and maintaining farm facilities and equipment.


Historically, dairy barns were constructed like houses, striving to keep barns closed-in to protect cows from winter weather. But building them that way ignored the fact that cows have a different temperature comfort range than people.

“Cows are much more cold- tolerant than we are and much less heat-tolerant than we are,” said Jeffrey Bewley, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture assistant extension professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “Of course, even in the Southeast, we experience winter days where cold stress is a concern.”

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Two main responses cows usually have to heat and humidity are to eat less feed and produce less milk. Another problem that often occurs with heat and humidity stress is an elevation in the somatic cell count of the herd. Below are some suggestions for reducing these summer stress responses of your cows.

1. Ask your nutritionist to check your rations for changes that will help maintain intake and milk production.
Also check to be sure your cows are receiving adequate levels of vitamins A and E, and selenium.

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The economic consequences of heat stress to the dairy industry have been calculated to be approximately $900 million annually. This sum reflects not only milk production decline, but reproductive losses, increased lameness, prematurely replacing animals in the herd, rumen acidosis, a decrease in milk fat, premature calving, retained placenta and many other health implications. While many producers consider only the decline in milk production in the economics of heat stress, the losses are indeed greater.

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Having reliable equipment is fundamental to running a good farming operation. If your tractors, trucks or loaders are down, profit starts to slip away with each hour that machine is out of commission.

So buying equipment and whether or not to buy it new or used, becomes an important choice. What should go into a buying decision and what should you consider next time you try to choose between new or used?

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There’s a famous saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and they – whoever “they” is – are right.

And while it’s a well understood cliché, in this recession, most people would be happy with a free appetizer. Or maybe a free drink – anything to help offset the costs of the overall meal.

Now, apply that logic to energy efficiency projects on your farm. Sure, it’s unlikely someone’s going to drop an energy-efficient motor or pump at your front door, but there are ways you could get some of the costs reimbursed for your energy-saving efforts.

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Heat stress is an economic cost for U.S. producers. It is estimated that hot weather costs dairy farmers $900 million per year in reduced milk production and reduced fertility. In addition, heat stress is an animal welfare issue, as severe heat stress can result in death.

Animal behavior can provide insights into how and when to cool dairy cows. We will review the behavioral responses to heat stress and examine results from studies looking at two common methods for cooling dairy cattle: shade and sprinklers.

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