“This would provide Texas dairy producers with an effective and inexpensive way to lower heifer body temperature and, by extension, improve animal well-being and productivity,” Jordan said.
Friend, who is also investigating whether the calf’s immune function is improved by using the hutch covers, said dairy producers could adopt the study’s results very quickly.
“The key to keeping the costs down is ordering the covers in large numbers because there are huge savings in costs,” he said.
While Friend said farmers always have to watch their costs, there is yet another issue that could influence accessibility to markets for a farm’s milk.
“Farm animal welfare audits are becoming increasingly important,” he said. “And some audits are starting to insist the calves have adequate shade, so auditors are likely not to consider an uninsulated plastic hutch to be adequate shade for the animal.”
As drought and hot temperature conditions continue in the Southwest, there’s the potential for wide adoption among dairy producers, Friend said.
“It certainly could help in the Southwest. In addition to conducting some trials this summer in Texas, we will also be working with a farm in southern Arizona. I am very excited to see how much reflective covers can help in that environment.”
For more information, contact Drs. Ted Friend (email@example.com) or Ellen Jordan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Source: Texas A&M University