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Cool cows make for happier herd in Dubai

Upgrades at dairy farm boost milk production during summer heat

  • Cold showers and a cooling system are in place inside cow houses to help keep soaring desert temperatures at bImage Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • A significant increase in milk production was achieveddue to changes made by the new management.Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • infrastructure upgrades at the farm started with theinstallation of 600 new coolersImage Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: Renovations of dairy-cow sheds at Al Rawabi Milk Farm have made cows “happier” and more comfortable during the summer resulting in higher milk production, says the herd’s overseer.

Dr Rami Hamad, Al Rawabi’s farm manager, said wider cow paths to milking stations, cold showers and a cooling system are now in place inside shaded cow houses to help keep soaring desert temperatures at bay.

“We have 11,000 cows in total, of which 7,000 are (adult) cows and 4,000 are young stock – young stock means from a day-old baby to one minute before the cow becomes a mother.”

Depending on the season, Hamad said, the amount of milk produced on the farm varies.

“In the summer we are now making around 160,000 litres a day.”

That’s four times the daily production several years ago when production was 45,000 litres.

The significant increase, he said, was due to changes made by the new management, which includes him, who took over three years ago.

“We changed the way we manage the heat, we came up with a new system of cooling the cows.”

In the summer the cows used to suffer from the heat, as only 10 per cent of the sheds were cooled while 90 per cent were not, Hamad said.

“When cows suffer they don’t eat, and when they don’t eat there is no milk.”

Hamad explained that the optimum temperature for cows to live is 13 degrees Celsius.

If it goes above that, the cow suffers internal heat stress and can reach a lethal point at which the cow opens its mouth – which is when the ambient temperature outside is nearing 40 degrees.

He said recent infrastructural upgrades at the Al Rawabi farm started with the installation of 600 new coolers (each cooler costs $6,000) and the expansion of nine new sheds to accommodate around 3,000 animals in total.

The capital investment has helped lower the shed temperatures by at least 20 degrees Celsius cooler than outside.

Hamad explained that the biggest “nightmare” for handlers was during the cows’ daily migration from their covered areas to the milking parlour and back.

Before the upgrades, pathways were not covered and the ground was covered in sand, which heated up, causing the cows to run. He said that when the cows ran the sand and dust would rise and the cows at the back would suffer.

“We built new wide passages; before they were two metres wide, now they are five to nine meters wide, depending on the number of cows using the passage. We also put roofs on all the passages, and concreted all the floors.”

They also created a shower system that is triggered by motion sensor to cool down the cows. The cows get showered between two to five times depending on the distance their house is from the milking parlour.

Hamad explained that when the cow is wet and then goes into its house that has a cooler, its temperature drops substantially and so it pushes the cows to eat to get warm.

“That is why milk production does not drop in the summer anymore, because cows eat as much as they did in the winter – thanks to the cooling system. When the temperature reached 50 degrees some time ago, it did not affect the cows – as the new system kept them cool,” he said.

Hamad added that the company has also erected a new milking parlour and renovated two existing milking parlours and equipped them with the latest technology.

The dairy herd is chipped and the entire farm is computerised, from the feeding system to the milking, he said.

Farm visits

When all renovations are completed, which is expected in September, the farm will open its doors for school and family tours.

“We are expecting 15,000 school children and 7,000 families to visit us during the upcoming year,” said Abyson Jacob, sales & marketing manager at Al Rawabi.

The farm tours will be in air-conditioned buses.