GNH Lumber February 2024

To beat the heat farmers cool cows


ANCRAMDALE—If the summer sizzle has sent you scurrying for relief in the nearest wet or air-conditioned spot, then you may wonder how farmers and their animals manage to deal with it.

But first, let’s set the record straight—it’s not that hot.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Ray O’Keefe, a 35-year-veteran weather guy stationed in Albany, put things in perspective for The Columbia Paper Monday. As of August 6 there were 15 days this year when the temperature hit 90 degrees or above and we still have a way to go.

Last year there were only 8 days when the mercury hit the 90-degree mark or greater.

The average number of 90-degree days per year around here is 10 and though those occasions primarily occur between April and September, Mr. O’Keefe said the last time we had a 90-degree day outside of those months was in October 1941.

The record for 90-degree days was 32 set in 1955.

In order for 2018 to even break into the Top 10 List of years with the most 90-degree days, we’d have to collect 20 of them to tie with 1939 for the number 10 spot.

But what is the scientific climatic explanation for all this sweltering 90-degree weather?

Mr. O’Keefe says, “It’s summer.”

Looking back over the past few years, 90-degree days stack up this way: 15 in 2016, 15 in 2013, 14 in 2010, 15 in 2005 and 21 in 2002.

Yes, hitting 90 degrees on August 6 is 10 to 12 degrees above normal, but measured relative to record days, it’s not extreme and we’re not pushing any records at this point,” the meteorologist noted.

Like anyone who has to work outside, farmers are among those at risk during these sticky, sweat-inducing days, Steve Hadcock told The Columbia Paper this week.

Mr. Hadcock, the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s regional agriculture, entrepreneur and marketing development educator, says, “You can only cool a barn down so much and you still have to deal with the humidity.”

Farmers, like everyone working in this weather, should drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun as much as possible, he said.

For those trying to take advantage of the hot sunny weather to make hay while the sun shines—“they should take frequent breaks,” said Mr. Hadcock. “A hay mow [where temperatures can easily soar to 100+ degrees] is not the most fun place to be on a day like today.”

Animals too, should have access to an abundant water supply. Dairy cattle and other lactating ruminants like goats can be stressed by the heat and milk production may suffer. Some farmers keep their cows cool inside the barn by running fans and “misters,” said Mr. Hadcock.

Misters are like those indoor rain-making systems that send a moist shower spewing down on broccoli as you grab it from the shelf at the supermarket.

A fine mist is sprayed over the cows and then fans are used to blow across and evaporate the moisture to cool the cows.

Livestock pastured outside, should have plenty of food, water and shade. Sheep, though shorn in the spring, are still wearing a wool coat after all. Pigs are susceptible to overheating due to their inability to sweat effectively, so they need a wallow—a nice shallow mud pit–to roll in and keep their body temperature under control, said Mr. Hadcock, who has been with Cooperative Extension for 36 years.

Just use common sense, try to do for your animals what you would do for yourself,” he said.

When the temperature hits 86 degrees corn will not grow any faster,” Cooperative Extension Regional Agronomy Educator Aaron Gabriel said by phone this week.

Field corn, also called cow corn because its grown specifically to feed cows, “likes the heat” and “temperature is related to growth” until it hits 86, said Mr. Gabriel, an expert on field corn, soybeans and hay. The rain came at a good time—during pollination—which was beneficial… but then some areas got too much rain, he said.

Currently, with the onset of winds from the south, which carry bugs with them, leaf diseases on corn are of some concern to farmers and are being monitored.

Hay and grass diseases come every year, said Mr. Gabriel, but every year is different in terms of crop varieties. Advances in research, breeding and development have resulted in crop varieties that can better survive stress, he said.

Only 45 days till fall, but who’s counting?

To contact Diane Valden email

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