Kansas summers are notorious for being extremely hot; not only during June, July, and August, but also throughout late spring and early fall as well. When it came time to remodel our freestall barn, we looked into evaporative cooling methods and decided that it would be an excellent fit for our operation.
I was not very old when my family made the decision to install a sprinkler system overtop our feedbunk, and I was ecstatic to learn that the cows were going to receive "showers" to help keep them cool. Little did my parents know that I planned to run through the sprinklers with the cows to stay cool as well.
Once installation was complete, it was time to put our new sprinkler system to the test. The cows were hesitant toward the new addition at first, but their behavior quickly changed once they became accustomed to the cool spray of water. Not only did the cows seem to enjoy our new system, but they spent more time and made less frequent visits to the feedbunk and showed fewer signs of heat stress.
In comparison to summers past, we noticed that milk yield was, on average, higher once the addition of a sprinkler system was put into place. However, it became apparent that humidity could become an issue if the sprinklers were overused. We adjusted the frequency of the sprinkler to run for one minute every five minutes to cut down on moisture levels in the barn.
Working to lower temperatures in our freestall barn by adding sprinklers to our preexisting fans and natural ventilation was a wise investment. Cows were not only cooler, but also had higher milk production throughout the summer months. As for me, I still enjoy walking through the refreshing spray of water as I help cows make their way from the freestall barn to the parlor.
Taylor Leach grew up on her family's dairy farm in Linwood, Kansas. Leach graduated with an associate's degree from Kansas City Kansas Community College and now attends Oklahoma State University, majoring in animal science and agriculture communications. On campus, she is a member of the dairy club and also works on the university's dairy farm. Leach is serving as the 2016 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.