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Winter is Here—Is Your Dairy Ready?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
December 16, 2015        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Winter is Here—Is Your Dairy Ready?
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (12/16/15) — I’m sitting in my office thinking, “How is it December?!  How is it almost 2016?!”  Well, once again, winter has snuck up on us, whether we were ready or not. Luckily, it’s been a mild winter so far, and it’s not too late to get your farm in winter-ready shape.  On dairy farms, there are several components of ventilation and air quality to consider in the winter. 

First, think about calf barn ventilation.  Calves need plenty of fresh air, even in cold weather, regardless of if your calves are in hutches or in naturally or mechanically ventilated barns. The fresh air removes moisture, ammonia and airborne pathogens.  Uniform fresh air distribution is important but difficult in calf barns. It is critical that ventilation air does not create cold air drafts. Plenty of clean, dry bedding that allows nesting helps calves retain heat and avoid drafts.

While you’re thinking about ventilation for your calves, think about it for your lactating cows as well.  It is important to provide at least 50 CFM per cow of fresh ventilation air in cold weather. More air exchange is needed to keep humidity levels below 80% when it is cold because cold air cannot pick up much moisture. Fresh air needs to be uniformly distributed to maintain uniform conditions for all of the cows. 

If your cows are in a naturally ventilated barn, be sure to check the curtains.  Look for tears and holes or loose sections that permit uncontrolled airflow during windy weather. Holes and loose sections can allow large amounts of fresh air to enter in some barn areas while other areas have little fresh air. Poor fresh air distribution will lead to cold drafty spots and stuffy humid spots.

If your cows are in a mechanically ventilated barn, check your fans and inlets.  Make sure that the inlets are well distributed, clear and adjusted as needed. Cold weather fans should be checked to make sure that they run well and are lubricated. Hot weather fans that will not run can be sealed off so that they do not let in cold air. Fans with shutters should be checked to make sure that the shutters close when the fans do not run.

Along with the cow areas, also take a look at the “people areas” of your dairy.  Check doors to the barn, milking parlor, and other areas to make sure they close tightly, and will not leak cold air in on windy days.  Additionally, if there are areas such as a farm office or the milking parlor where you may use propane or natural gas heaters, make sure to check that the fresh air supply and chimney are clear and that fuel lines are not damaged.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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