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Overheating cows? Hot weather could cause dairy prices to spike

After a stretch of record-setting heat in late June and early July that blanketed much of the West, dairy prices could spike this summer. 

Extreme heat causes cows to produce less milk, making farmers work harder to keep their Holsteins cool.

The coming weeks are expected to bring prolonged heat to the Midwest, a top dairy producing region, according to meteorologists for Accuweather.com. California has also seen triple-digit temperatures recently, and this summer could bring other heat waves.

Consumers would see price spikes on dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream if high temperatures are prolonged.

Tamilee Nennich, a professor of animal sciences at Purdue University, said cows typically begin experiencing heat stress when the temperature humidity index hits 72 degrees. 

In a podcast, Nennich said new research finds that high-producing dairy cows may be affected by temperatures closer to 68 degrees.  

Farmers typically use fans and soakers in the barn to keep their milking herd cool. But fans need to be clean and positioned correctly to keep cows comfortable, Nennich said.

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ricardo.lopez@latimes.com

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