Heat stress and cooling effects on dairy farm economics. Part 2 - the economic benefits of cooling the cows in the summer.

Published on: 10/30/2019
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Heat stress is considered an influential factor in the profitability of dairy farms, especially in the hot regions of the world. In the first part of my article, previous to this, I described how heat stress impairs cow's performance and farm profitability. In the current article, I plan to show, based on the literature, my own experience and calculations, how proper cooling can reduce the negative effect of heat stress and contribute to increasing farm profitability.

In a survey conducted by Dr. Vincent St. Pierre, an economist and researcher at the University of Ohio, heat stress was characterized in different regions of the US. Among these regions, there are "cold states", where heat stress conditions are not met at all, or at a very low rate, and "warm states" (mainly in the south), where cows are exposed to stress conditions by heat for almost half the time of the year. The researcher reviewed the literature where studies have been studied and published that examine the contribution of various means of cooling the cows to the yield and profitability of the farm. Based on the results appearing in the articles, adapting them to the different US regions, St. Pierre evaluated the potential improvement of the application of existing knowledge to the reduction of production losses in the summer and found that it reaches almost 40% of the losses in milk production obtained, as described earlier in the first part of this article. Total losses for the US dairy industry dropped from 1.5 to 0.9 billion dollars per year, before and after the implementation of these cooling means. It is likely that the reconsideration of these results today, with the advances and improvements made in the cooling systems over the past twenty years, the implementation of intensive cooling can reduce the losses caused by heat stress in the summer to a greater extent.

Based on the experience acquired, researchers from the University of Florida compared the performance of the cows and the profitability of the farm, with and without a good cooling of the cows in the summer. Without cooling, the cows spent almost 50% of the time of the year under conditions of heat stress, when in the summer months (June - September), the cows were subjected to stressful conditions 24 hours a day. Under these conditions, annual milk production per cow was reduced by 1,600 liters, of which 1,400 liters (90%), was lost in the summer months. The fall in milk production caused the loss of USD 690 of the expected annual income per cow. When the cows were effectively cooled in the summer, the total hours in which they were subjected to heat stress conditions were reduced to only 20% of the year time, and 50% of the day during the summer months. Effective cooling reduced the annual loss of milk per cow from 1,600 to 200 liters, almost all during the summer months, and the loss of annual income from about USD 700 per cow, without cooling to only USD 125 per cow, by implementing an intensive cooling treatment.

As presented in the first part of this article, heat stress and cooling of cows are, above all, an economic problem. The mitigation of heat stress by the use of cooling means only reduces economic losses. In any case, the implementation of cooling means will be economically justified only if its cost is less than the total economic losses caused by heat stress.

In order to evaluate this issue in different farm conditions, I recently participated in the development of a special computerized Excel program, where you can evaluate the profitability of the implementation of cooling means. The program consists of farm data (number of cows, production level and number of summer days per year), the cost of cooling (installation and operation of cooling equipment), as well as farm prices (food, electricity and milk). For the calculation, we assume an expected increase in annual production and feed efficiency (only for summer days), all presented as a percentile above the basic level, before cooling is implemented.

In general, I use the "mode of assumptions" before starting a new cow cooling project, where I can study the "breakeven point" for investment and convince the farmer to do it. The "results mode" is in use at the end of the summer, in each of the projects I am executing in the world. In this mode, real numbers are used instead of assumptions related to the improvement in production and, by doing so, we can confirm or deny the economic calculations made before starting.

In the last 10 years, since I started using this program, I "executed" it in more than 30 different countries, located on three different continents. In some cases, it was done only in the "mode of assumption" for use in conferences or meetings with producers. In other cases, the "results mode" was used, where real numbers are presented to the farmer, at the end of a successful summer, knowing exactly the additional costs needed to cool the cows on the one hand, and the additional amount of milk produced annually, on the other hand.

In the current article, the results of some of my cow cooling projects carried out in four different countries and located on three different continents are presented.

Cows cooling project in Mexico: the project was carried out in a 3,000 cow's farm, located in the arid part of northern Mexico. Investment in equipment for cooling the cows in "special cooling yards" reached USD 800,000 (USD 250 per cow). The operation of the cooling system for 150 days each summer had an annual cost of USD 45 per cow, of which USD 30 for electricity and USD 10 for additional labor (six additional employees hired and worked three shifts per day). Among the benefits generated by the intensive cooling of the cows, a 10% increase in annual milk production per cow taken into account. We also assume a 5% improvement in "feed efficiency" for the 150 summer days and a decrease of five "days open" per cow, annually. The results of this project show that, under the conditions mentioned above, the additional income due to intensive cooling implementation reached USD 600,000 per farm, annually (USD 200 per cow), and the expected return on investment was expected to be lower to two years

Cows cooling project in Italy: the project carried out on a farm of 930 cow's farm located in northeastern Italy. The investment in cooling equipment installed in the waiting yard and in the feeding line reached 260,000 EUR (280 per cow). The operation of the cooling system during 120 summer days had a cost of EUR 30 per cow per year, of which EUR 20 for electricity. Among the benefits generated by the intensive cooling of the cows, an 8% increase in annual milk production per cow obtained and taken into account in the calculation of profitability. In this case, in addition to the good price for the milk, the farm also received a bonus of EUR 20 per cow per year, for the improvement in milk quality and declared a reduction of EUR 15 per cow per year in medication costs. The results of this project show that, under the conditions mentioned above, the additional annual income due to the implementation of intensive cooling reached 280,000 EUR per farm (300 per cow), and the expected return of the investment occurred in less than one year.

Cooling project for cows in Turkey: the project carried out on a 1,100 cow's farm, located in southwestern Turkey. The cows cooled in the waiting yard (before and between milking sessions), followed by cooling the cows in the feed line. At the end of the summer, a 12% increase in annual production per cow and a 5% improvement in feed efficiency during 120 summer days taken into account. At the beginning of the project, part of the cooling equipment already existed, so the investment for the installation of additional cooling equipment was only USD 140,000 (USD 130 per cow), while its operating was of USD 30 per cow. Farm net income due to intensive cooling of the cows reached USD 220,000 (200 per cow), and the return of investment was in less than one year (mainly due to the relatively minor investment in equipment).

Cows cooling project in Russia: the project carried out on a 1,100 cow's farm, located in the southwest of Russia (Black Sea region). The cows cooled in the waiting yard (before milking) and in the feeding line (after and between milking sessions). At the end of the summer where cows were intensively cooled, a 15% increase in annual milk was obtained. The investment for cooling was USD 290,000 (USD 265 per cow), while the cost of operating the cooling system in the 100 summer days (beginning of June to mid-September) was USD 30 per cow. Annual increase in farm net income reached USD 260,000 (240 per cow), and the return on investment was within one year.

The interesting point in the data presented (and those of other projects, whose data were not included in this article), is that, regardless of  the geographical and climatic differences between the four projects described, as well as the differences in the level of production, management practices used and prices of inputs and outputs, the numbers presented do not differ much. The increase in annual production due to intensive cooling (real data), averaged 10% (range between 8 and 10%). In terms of USD per cow, the investment for the installation of the cooling equipment varied between USD 250 and 300, and the average operating cost of USD 30 (range between USD 20 and USD 40). The increase in annual net income per cow averaged 250 USD (range between 200 and 300 USD) and the return of investment varied between one and two years.

Based on my experience of more than 40 years, dealing with milk production in Israel and the world, I can conclude that, regardless of the geographical region or type of production system in operation, you can consider investing in cow cooling means and its proper use, as one of the best investments that the farmer can make.


Here you can read the first part of the article: https://en.engormix.com/dairy-cattle/articles/heat-stress-cooling-effects-t44314.htm

Dr. Flamenbaum started working with dairy cows in the late sixties, as an herd man and then, in charge of the 150 dairy cows herd in Kibbutz Misgav Am, in the north of Israel. Then he joined the State of Israel, Ministry of agriculture, Extension services in 1977.Since 1977 until 2008 - Serving in different positions, starting as a dairy cattle regional extension officer, head of cattle department and lately, as the director of the division of Animal Husbandry.In April 2008, he retired and dedicated professional activity time as private consultant in Israel and worldwide.
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