Dubai: As the mercury soars to the high 40s, local dairy farms are once again going all out to protect their livestock from the blast furnace-like desert heat.
Severe heat and humidity can be dangerous for dairy cows, lowering milk production and threatening their health and ability to carry calves to term.
That’s something no dairy farm could afford. Understandably so, they are using special air conditioning systems, shaded walkways, fans and sprayers to help cows beat the heat.
Barns across dairy farms in the UAE have been kitted out with overhead coolers, wall mounted fans and curtains that block out the sun completely. If this was not enough, some farms have even rented air-cooled industrial chillers, paying upwards of Dh50,000 monthly.
Al Ain Farms said they have put efficient cooling systems in place to ensure the temperature in cow houses do not rise above 25⁰Celsius.
“Curtains and shaded walkways protect the cows from direct sunlight while overhead showers at feeding barriers remain on throughout summer. Cows can spend up to six to eight hours per day eating. It’s critical that they are comfortable during feed intakes,” said Al Ain Farms’ marketing manager Milana Boskovic.
At the sprawling Al Rawabi Farms in Dubai’s Al Al Khawaneej neighbourhood, a Korral Kool System comprising 850 overhead fans have been installed for the 13,000 odd Holstein Friesian cows here.
This system allows dairies in hot climates to get top production that previously had only been available where it was cool.
“Holstein Friesian cows trace their origins from Holland and Germany. They are world’s highest-production dairy animals and their well-being is our top priority,” said Al Rawabi Farm’s operation manager Dr Saman Siriwardana, walking us through one of the barns where several cows, characterised by large black and white spotted markings, munch on special feed while water mists them from above providing evaporative cooling.
PLENTY OF WATER
During summer, the farm uses 1,800 cubic metres of water daily compared to around 400 cubic metres in winter.
The drinking trough systems too works overtime, giving the thirsty beasts up to 80 litres of clean drinking water which is cooled between 20⁰Celsius - 28⁰Celsius to guarantee optimal intakes.
Heat stress affects milk production but its impact on the fertility of cows and their overall health last well beyond summer.
Farms overcome this problem with the help of intelligent ear tags that not just monitor the activity of each cow but also deliver health and heat alerts to veterinarians in real time.
“Cows lose appetite when they are under stress. Less feed means less production,” said Al Rawabi CEO Dr Ahmad Al Tiqani. “So we have to be extra careful with them. Our staff is forbidden to even shout at the animals. Anyone found doing so is penalised,” he said.
45litresnumber of litres a high-yielding Holstein Friesian cow can produce daily.
During peak lactation, a high-yielding Holstein Friesian cow can produce over 45 litres per day.
Al Ain Farms said they milk 4,600 cows daily from a herd around 10,000.
35to 40litres of milk is what each average lactating cow produces daily
“Our cows average about 36 litres daily. In order to maintain this production level, it’s important that we also maintain a controlled stress-free cold environment,” said Boskovic.
Pregnant cows that suffer heat stress give birth to calves that also produce less milk, according to research.
850the number of overhead fans installed at dairy farm in Dubai
Since hot weather also affects the way cows process essential nutrients, dairy farms have to also bring about certain dietary changes during summer.
Cows are more susceptible to heat stress because the good microflora in their rumen which breaks down cellulose also produces a significant amount of heat. It’s akin to having a furnace inside a cow’s body throughout the year.
1,800 cubic metres of water is needed daily at Al Rawabi Farms during summer compared to 400 cubic metres in winter