UC Davis studies cow mister efficiency
Aug. 8, 2008 - - UC Davis researchers are conducting an experiment to see how
long cows will stand under a cooling shower if they can do it as long as they
want, reports the Sacramento Bee. “We’re interested in when the cows will turn
the water on and off for themselves,” said Cassandra Tucker, an assistant
professor of animal science. “We wanted to give the cows control.”
The goal is to help dairy farmers, who use misters to keep their cows cool in the summer, to be more efficient with water and to manage their herds in a manner that will produce more milk.
In a barn on LaRue Road in Davis, four pens have been equipped with wooden shower platforms. A cow’s weight on the floor triggers the shower heads above. Some of the cows have taken to standing under the water for seven hours a day or more. Other cows that try to grab a shower can be met with heavy resistance. David Ledgerwood, a university researcher, said the black-and-white bovines would jostle for position under the shower, with the dominant cow fending off challengers.
Cows have been able to stand under the water since May, when the experiment started. During the hot spell in July, the cows lacking shower privileges got dangerously hot. Their body temperatures went up to 106 degrees, and they panted like dogs—classic signs of heat stress. “That didn’t happen to the shower cows,” Tucker said. The cows that could use the showers kept their body temperatures at a normal level. Hot cows don’t produce as much milk, but wasting water on cows that do not need it is inefficient, the researchers said. Video cameras monitor the cows 24 hours a day to see which ones shower and when.