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Health, Science and Environment

Rising heat across the state could affect milk production

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Riley Connell
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As the first heat wave of the summer settles in, experts say cows won’t produce as much milk. Some researchers are still looking into why, but a dairy farmer in Missaukee County has an idea.

Dairy farmers have long noticed when the heat increases, milk production drops.

Brinks Family Creamery in McBain started as a dairy farm in 1942, but has since expanded into a business, selling dairy products made with the milk of their cows. Currently, they have 200 cows that they milk twice a day.

Herdsman at Brinks Family Creamery, Kenda Rivera, said that when temperatures approach 90 degrees, their cows can lose several pounds of milk a day. She said it’s likely due to exhaustion.

“I think it’s just like they’re so hot they would rather lay down instead of get up and eat," Rivera said. "I mean they’ll drink water but they just don’t move as much when it’s that hot. So we’ll have more push out on feed rather than them eating it all.”

To keep the milk loss at a minimum, Brinks has a cooling system in place.

"So, as soon as it hits a certain temperature in the barn, the fans automatically turn on," Rivera said. "A lot of times, like when they come in the holding area, we'll spray them down with water and cool them off a little bit. Make sure they have fly spray on them so that the flys don't bother them."

Michigan State University professor and C. E. Meadows Endowed Chair in Dairy Management and Nutrition, Barry Bradford, said that cows can also produce less cheese as a result of high heat. He said this is because of a decrease in fat, and cows often lose anywhere from 10% to 15% of fat during the summer. 

Bradford said that despite the decrease in dairy production, consumers shouldn't expect a dairy shortage at the grcoery store.

“I really doubt consumers would notice a difference. For most products that we have, there’s substantial supplies sort of in storage, or, you know, if anything’s affected, we would decrease exports, that sort of thing,” Bradford said.

 

Bradford said if the country sustained a heat wave, it could impact production enough that grocery stores would eventually increase their prices. But, as of right now, he says a shortage isn’t expected.

 
This story was produced as part of the Michigan News Group internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight local newspapers. You can read a print version of the story in the Friday edition of the Cadillac News.