I had to chuckle just a bit when one of my girlfriends complained that it was too hot to take her kids to the pool this past weekend. "Unless you are in the water, it's just too hot to be outside," said my friend, who is a mother of two.
While most of the country is experiencing one of the hottest summers on record, and the kind of severe drought that hasn’t been seen for nearly a quarter of a century, farmers are the ones really experiencing the toll.
As a mother of three, I'm concerned for my children spending too much time outdoors in the excessive heat. "Drink plenty of water, come inside and put on more sunscreen, get in the shade!" I’ve been heard saying more times than I care to count. However, for many dairy farmers like my husband, Scott, they really worry about the cows and the crops.
Cows are much more tolerant of weather than people, but a farmer still takes exceptional care of cows, especially during this hot weather.
Our milk cows are housed in a free-stall barn, where they have 24/7 access to fresh feed and water, and can lie down or walk around at their leisure. The barns are equipped with large fans running 24 hours a day, so they can have constant cool air flow.
Our cows are also cooled off with sprinklers as they enter and exit the milking parlor. Jersey cows at Bohnert farm can lie down on new mattresses we added last month, giving them that extra cushion to help keep them cool and comfortable.
Like many dairy farmers, Scott clocks in many hours during the summer months. He wakes early to mix fresh feed for the cows to eat during the cooler mornings, and does it again after the sun has gone down and the thermometer has dropped, encouraging the cows to eat and drink as much as possible. All of our cows, both big and small, are closely watched to make sure they stay healthy.
Honestly, we can do more for our cows than we can do for our crops in the heat. We farm on sandy ground with no irrigation, which generally hasn’t been a problem until now. To say the crops need a drink of water would be an understatement. Our insurance representative is reporting a significant loss for our farm, but we try to remain optimistic. Others have it worse. We are fortunate at Bohnert Farm that we still have nine months of feed on hand.
Funny how we now consider mid-to-high 80s a cool front. However, these cooler temperatures brought much-needed rain —enough to settle the dust, make the corn stretch a bit, and give all our Jersey cows and kids of all ages a bigger smile.
And, for the first time in more than a decade of living in Illinois, I have gotten used to the heat and humidity. Not sure that's a good thing, but I realized that I can handle it, especially if my husband and so many other dairy farmers and livestock caretakers can work in this climate day-in, day-out, to assure that our animals continue to be cared for well.
East Moline, IL