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Beating the summer heat, humidity in cow country

"It's not uncommon to see cows that aren't cooled really well to lose 10 to 15 pounds a day in milk," said Brad Almeter, partial owner of Breezyhill Dairy.

STRYKERSVILLE, N.Y. — On a hot and humid day keeping cool by Lake Erie is one of the many benefits of living in Western New York, but what if you're a cow living in Wyoming County?

It's an important question considering the U.S. Census population for Wyoming County in 2019 was 39,859 people. The total number of milk cows, however, according to the USDA, that same year was 47,000. That's the highest number of cows per county in New York State.

While that fact may surprise some people, it is no surprise to sixth-generation farmer and partial proprietor of Breezyhill Dairy, Brad Almeter. The farm's name comes from its location atop North Sheldon Road.

"We milk about 1,100 cows per day and get 95 pounds of milk per cow," Almeter said.

Western New York's hot and humid summer has threatened to cut into those yields. As Almeter explained, the ideal air temperature for cows is more like 55-degrees and not 80 with a high dew point.

"It's not uncommon to see cows that aren't cooled really well to lose 10 to 15 pounds of milk a day in production," Almeter said. He clarified that Breezyhill Dairy, fortunately, hasn't experienced losses like that this summer but that doesn't mean they're taking any chances.

Massive fans and a soaking system, that goes off once every 10 minutes, are both set up to keep the cows comfortable. Climate-controlled curtains also surround the cow barn and regulate airflow.

"They're able to very quickly predict the weather and make adjustments that suit the animals. It allows ease of life for the farmer too. We used to spend a few hours in the beginning and the end of each day constantly adjusting these," Almeter explained.

The calve barn has similar features that improve airflow a few hundred feet away. While it will be two years before they're ready for milking, a happy calf will eventually mean a happy cow.

On top of the heat, dairy farmers have also experienced quite a bit of price volatility over the past 18 months of the pandemic. A new assistance program was announced Wednesday by the USDA.

"The pandemic hasn't been easy but... you know we have to sharpen our pencils sometimes and adjust our practices but we stick with that and it got us through it pretty well," said Almeter.

Keeping cool under multiple types of pressure and making sure your gallon of milk at Wegmans remains affordable. You can enjoy the fruit of Breezyhill in products like Bison Dip and Upstate Farms' milk.

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