With the continuing heat wave stretching across most of the country, is your refrigerator keeping its cool?

Storing animal health products at the correct temperature is one key aspect of beef quality assurance (BQA) programs, because improper storage can cause products to lose their effectiveness. Refrigeration at 35-45°F is recommended for many products, with some exceptions based on the unique nature of each product. Most farms do a good job of keeping products refrigerated, but how often are those refrigerators checked to be sure the temperature is in the right range? A study done by University of Arkansas scientists revealed that most farms' refrigerators did not meet the needed recommendations.

Temperatures were recorded at 10-minute intervals in 191 refrigerators, representing all styles and ages from less than five to over 15 years and located in a variety of environments from kitchens to the area near cattle-handling facilities. Only 27% of refrigerators maintained a temperature between 35° and 45°F during more than 95% of the 48-hour test period (the BQA goal). Even worse, 24% of refrigerators maintained that temperature for less than 5% of the test period. Refrigerator type and age did not affect ability to keep a constant temperature, but location was important. Refrigerators in temperature-controlled environments maintained the optimum coolness range better.

Have you checked the temperature in your refrigerator lately? The thermostat may need to be adjusted, or perhaps you need to do some general maintenance. Here are a few pointers for improving refrigerator performance:

  • Vacuum vents and coils. Dusty coils have to work harder to cool the refrigerator.
  • Clean the drip pan beneath the refrigerator.
  • Clean the drain of auto-defrost models. To clear the drain tube, remove the stopper and insert a pipe cleaner into the opening; flush with soapy water, then empty and clean the pan.
  • Wash gaskets that seal the doors with soapy water. Occasionally, test gasket condition by attempting to slide a sheet of paper between the seal and the refrigerator wall. If the paper slips in, the seal is not tight enough, and the gasket needs to be replaced.
  • Do not position a refrigerator or freezer in direct contact with hot appliances, as this will make the compressor work harder.

Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers to keep frost build-up under 0.25 inch.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association