Dairy cows struggle to produce milk in the heat - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dairy cows struggle to produce milk in the heat

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PLEASANT SPRINGS (WKOW) -- Farm animals, especially the big ones, really have a tough time in this extreme heat. Some dairy farmers say milk production is already down by at least 15 percent.

Pleasant Springs farmer Dan Niesen has been raising dairy cows for decades, so when it comes to the weather, he's seen it all. But Niesen says he's never seen conditions this hot and dry for so long.

It's a struggle to find ways to keep the cows cool. His 60 cows and a dozen or so heifers are protected by fans inside the barn, shade, sprinklers, and lots of water. Niesen says each animal can drink up to 100 gallons of water a day.

Niesen says the extreme heat is affecting milk production. On average, each cow produces about 8 gallons a day-- but not in this weather.

"I'd say probably everybody's has dropped at least 15 [percent], if not 20-25 [percent] maybe even more depending on their situation, if they aren't able to keep their cows cool," says Niesen.

Just like people-- when it's hot, cows get uncomfortable. They're more likely to eat less food, which means they won't be able to produce as much milk.

Niesen says consumers could be affected too, by changes at the grocery store.

"[If] I have this much feed available and I can't feed them all, so I'm going to sell the poorer ones [cows], and that will drop the beef price because there's going to be more animals coming to market in the short run," says Niesen.

But in the long run, Niesen thinks we'll see meat and dairy prices skyrocket as feed crops like corn run out. It's a problem for many farmers like Niesen-- who has more than 60 mouths to feed.

Niesen's corn is still alive because the soil in Dane County holds moisture better, but farmers in areas like Rock County are having more problems with sandier soil. Niesen says the corn still needs at least one good rain in the next week or so though, to survive.

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