ITHACA and WASHINGTON (April 11, 2019) – Heat-stressed dairy cows cost the American dairy industry an alarming $1.5 billion annually. With temperatures expected to rise, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $736,392 Seeding Solutions Grant to Cornell University to improve dairy cows’ ability to withstand extreme heat. The FFAR grant is matched with funding from AB Vista, Adisseo, Balchem Corporation, Berg + Schmidt, Elanco, Phibro Animal Health and Vetagro S.p.A. for a total $1.47 million investment.
The demand for dairy products and milk globally is expected to increase 57 percent by 2050. Rising temperatures will further compromise the American dairy industry in meeting future demand. Dairy cows are unable to efficiently produce milk when their body temperatures rise above normal, a condition known as hyperthermia-induced heat stress. Heat-stressed dairy cows also have reduced fertility, are more likely to develop infectious and metabolic diseases and may succumb to premature death.
According to Dr. Joseph McFadden, Assistant Professor of Cattle Biology and Principal Investigator at Cornell University, “Climate change and extreme heat represent key barriers for the sustainable production of milk that meets consumer expectations for quality as well as the rising global demand for dairy foods. We must act now to develop innovative solutions that revolutionize how we feed heat-stressed cows to ensure optimum animal health and welfare while achieving gains in efficient milk production.”
Heat stress in cattle is linked to a condition commonly called leaky gut. Specifically, hyperthermia can lead to bacterial endotoxins leaking from the gut, which causes liver inflammation. In response, the cow’s body pulls resources from producing milk to preserve health.
Researchers will start by understanding the relationship between dairy cattle’s gut health, intestinal permeability, liver health, immunity and milk production. Working with industry, McFadden’s team will determine whether heat-stressed dairy cows can recover if fed specific remedies. Ultimately, this project aims to identify nutrition-based solutions that improves dairy cows’ ability to adapt to extreme heat.