The Ideal temperature for Cows
Weather extremes (winter 2013-14) around the U.S. have caused widespread drought to California and artic cold to the rest of the U.S. Being creatures of habit, cows don’t enjoy extremes. Read more about which weather cows like best
We’ve all heard the saying “Happy cows come from California.” Some find the statement to be controversial, while others strongly affirm that cows in California are happier. If you we’re a cow, there’s no doubt that you’d want to be a California cow. There’s none of that white stuff during the winter. In fact, most California dairy cows have never gotten to experience the snow in their life. Poor deprived, California cows..
But what is the ideal temperature for cows? Do cows like warm weather, or cold? Where is the best place for cows to live?
The California Drought
The winter (2013-14) weather in California has been unusually mild this year.
In fact, California is in a continued drought. 2013 was the driest year on record in California. It’s been really dry, and we haven’t received much rain at all. To illustrate the severity of the drought, one source notes how far we are from typical rainfall averages:
Downtown Los Angeles received a meager 3.60 inches of rain since Jan. 1, the driest calendar year since 1877. Normally, downtown would be soaked with about 15 inches of precipitation.
Similarly, San Francisco recorded just 5.59 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, 18 inches below normal. Sacramento is 14 inches below average after receiving 6.13 inches of rain this year. (Source)
Many of the farmers in California will have problems getting enough water from irrigation districts to irrigate their crops next year. Luckily, many farmers have ground wells to pump their own water. Unfortunately this is only a temporary solution as the water table in many areas of California is rapidly dropping.
Other negatives, of course, include the dry, gloomy landscape. Usually the hills are bright green, and lush with fresh grass.
The cows love the dry weather though; it’s perfect weather for them.
The Ideal Temperature
Interestingly, though the ideal temperature range for dairy cows is between 25 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. (Source) Like other mammals, cows are warm blooded and need to maintain a constant core body temperature. The normal temperature for a dairy cow is around 101°F.
Cows are pretty good at withstanding cold temperatures. If you think about it, they have leather coats on, along with a fermentation vat (their rumen) to generate heat.
An Artic Winter
If you’re living in other parts of the U.S., you’re probably getting tired of the rabbling about the “tough” winter California’s been having. Recently, there have been many stories from other farmers across the nation, and how they are dealing with the cold weather.
One article describes how dairy farmers in Wisconsin are dealing with -20 degree weather, dairy farmers in Minnesota dealing with -54 degree weather, and dairy farmers in Eastern Kansas dealing with -30 degree weather. Negative temperatures don’t sound very fun.
Extreme weather like that can be bad for cattle, especially dairy cows. Dairy cows teats can get frostbite if they’re teats are wet after milking. The extreme cold can also give cow’s cold stress. In extreme cold, cows will increase their metabolic rate to generate heat to maintain body temperature. Many weeks of extreme cold will stress cows out, and wear them down.
Shelters/ Housing on Dairies
Luckily, many people have shelters for their dairy cows. In the Midwest, cows are usually housed in barns. Free stall, or tie stall barns are pretty common to keep cows out of the cold weather. Many of the dairy farms in the Midwest have curtains on their barns to keep the wind out. The curtains roll down to enclose the barn. Minimizing wind is the key to keeping cows warm.
Many other modern dairies in places like South Dakota have cross ventilated barns. Basically the cows are in an enclosed barn with fans on the outside to keep a fresh breeze going through. The body heat from the cows heats the structure, so if it’s -50 outside, it significantly warmer inside. Cows really like this kind of barn. It’s good at moderating temperatures, and keeping the temperature consistent.
In California, we don’t have problems keeping cows warm. Instead the goal of our structures is to keep the cows dry.
** Dairy barns in cold regions often have curtains like this to keep the cows warm, and shelter them from the cold wind**
**In California, Freestall barns give cows a warm, dry place to rest during the winter**
Do cows like the cold?
So do cows like the cold? Based on what researchers have found, cows probably prefer moderate weather. With an Ideal temperature around 25-65 degrees Fahrenheit, cows probably do enjoy the weather to be a bit colder. It’s not like they can take their coats off when it gets hot.
In California, cows often have to deal with some extreme warm weather which can cause heat stress. In other parts of the U.S., cows may have to deal with the extreme cold. The cows can get hypothermia, and frostbite just like people. Unfortunately, there’s not a “perfect” place for cows to live. There are, however, ways to manage the weather extremes (for both hot and cold) with proper shelters, and tools like fans.
Cows generally like moderate temperatures that are consistent. Consistency is key when managing cows. Being creature of habit, they just don’t like dramatic change especially when it comes to weather.
So if you can help manage the cow’s environment with proper housing or shelters, cows will probably be happy living just about anywhere.
Let me know
What are your thoughts? Let me know what you think in the comments below