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Warm milk: Climate change is hard on cows

A dairy cow peeks out of its stall at Case van Steyn's dairy in Galt, Calif.
A dairy cow peeks out of its stall at Case van Steyn's dairy in Galt, Calif.
Kathleen Masterson

With America in the grips of a sweltering heat wave that’s vying to make this season the hottest summer on record, a new study by scientists at the University of Washington reveals that soaring temperatures are just as hard on our bovine friends as humans.

According to the University press release, increasing climate change and higher temperatures has the potential of reducing milk production across America, particularly in Southeastern states like Florida.

Lead researcher Yoram Bauman and his team analyzed climate data in comparison to dairy industry data down to the county level. They mapped out the results through the year 2080 to get their findings.

"Using U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, if you look at milk production in the Southeast versus the Northwest, it's very different," said researcher Guillaume Mauger in a statement. "It's reasonable to assume that some of that is due to the inhospitable environment for cows in the Southeast."

What they’ve found is that milk production is directly affected by the climate, with the severity dependent on differences in humidity and how much the temperature fluctuates from day to night.

So where is the ideal locale for milk production? It appears the California Milk Advisory Board has it right: Happy cows do come from California (in terms of making milk, anyway), with the northern area of the state among the country’s best climates for bovines.

Still, climate change looks to ultimately take a toll across the board. According to the study, overall milk production is expected to drop 6 percent due to climate change by the year 2080.