Economic feasibility of cooling dry cows across the United States

Fernanda Ferreira, R. S. Gennari, G. E. Dahl, A. De Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Heat stress during the dry period reduces milk yield in the subsequent lactation of dairy cows. Our objectives were to quantify the economic losses due to heat stress if dry cows are not cooled and to evaluate the economic feasibility of dry cow cooling. We used weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to calculate the number of heat stress days for each of the 50 US states. A heat stress day was declared when the daily average temperature-humidity index was ≥68. The number of dairy cows in each state in 2015 was obtained from the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service. We assumed that 15% of the cows were dry at any time, a 60-d dry period, and a calving interval of 400 d. Only cows in their second or greater parity (65%) benefitted from cooling during the dry period of the previous parity. Milk yield decreased by 5 kg in the subsequent lactation (340 d) if the cow experienced heat stress during the dry period based on a review of the literature. The default marginal value of milk minus feed cost was $0.33/kg of milk. The investment analysis included purchases of fans and soakers and use of water and electricity. Investment in a dry cow barn was considered separately. The average US dairy cow would experience 96 (26%) heat stress days during the year if not cooled and loses 447 kg of milk in the subsequent lactation if not cooled when dry. Annual losses would be $810 million if dry cows were not cooled ($87/cow per yr). For the top 3 milk-producing states (California, Wisconsin, New York), and Florida and Texas, the average milk losses in the subsequent lactation were 522, 349, 387, 1,197, and 904 kg, and reduced profit per cow per year would be $101, $68, $75, $233, and $176, respectively. The average benefit-cost ratio and payback periods of cooling dry cows in the United States were 3.15 and 0.27 yr (dry cow barn already present) and 1.45 and 5.68 yr (if investing in a dry cow barn) in the default scenario. To reach positive net present values, 6 d (barn is present) and 55 d (barn investment necessary) of heat stress annually were necessary (default assumptions). Other benefits of cooling, such as increased health and more productive offspring, were not considered. In conclusion, cooling of dry cows was profitable for 89% of the cows in the United States when building a new barn is required (under default assumptions) and very profitable when construction of a dry cow barn is not required (except for Alaska).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9931-9941
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • dry cow
  • economic feasibility
  • heat stress
  • temperature-humidity index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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