Extreme heat can feel unbearable – for people and animals.

Barcellos: “Dairy cows are just like us humans. When it gets extremely hot, you look for shade, you look for ways to comfort yourself.”

Tom Barcellos has owned a dairy farm in California’s Central Valley for more than four decades. Over the years, he’s developed several strategies to protect his cows from the heat. He uses shade structures, water misters, and fans to help cool the animals.

But even with these methods, when temperatures rise to the triple-digits, it takes a toll on the cows. Conception rates drop. And so does milk production. During a punishing heat wave last summer …

Barcellos: “We suffered probably about a 10% to 12% loss in milk production you know over a period of about three weeks.”

Those losses lead to lower profits.

Barcellos: “Take a 10% cut on your paycheck and it’s kind of the same.”

Before the end of the century, temperatures in the Central Valley are expected to top 105 degrees Fahrenheit more than 30 times a year. So dairy farmers will have to continue to innovate to care for their livestock in a warmer world.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Sam Harrington

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...