During one of this winter's really cold spells, a friend from town stopped me at school and asked: "How do you keep your barn warm when it's this cold? Do you have a heater in there?"
Considering that the temperature was -26°F (with a wind chill of -45°F) that morning, those were good questions.
How do we keep the barn warm?
We don't have a heater in the barn. We rely on the cows' body heat to keep the barn warm. A cow's normal body temperature is about 102°F, so 60 cows can really produce a lot of heat.
Our barn has exhaust fans that are controlled by thermostats. The fans allow us to keep the barn at 40°F during the winter. Without the fans, the barn could be a lot warmer, but then the air wouldn't be as fresh. By exhausting the warm air and pulling outside air into the barn, the air stays fresh, which is even more important to cattle than it is to people and other animals.
I should mention, as well, that keeping the barn warm isn't terribly important to the cows. Cows don't mind cold temperatures – in fact, they prefer temperatures much cooler than the temperatures humans prefer. Lots of cows live in colder barns and even outside during the winter. Baby calves, on the other hand, do benefit from having a warmer environment, as long as there's adequate fresh air.
We keep the barn at 40°F so that our water pipes don't freeze. That temperature also makes it more comfortable for us humans – and our little helpers – to work in.
Do you have a question about dairy farming? Post a comment or send me an email and I'll be happy to answer it.