A STUDY, which took place at a commercial farm in Devon, has revealed that improving ventilation in barns could help dairy farmers prevent milk yield losses. 

The Animal Centred Controlled Environment for Dairy (ACCED) project, conducted by Galebreaker and Smartbell, analysed cow behaviour and productivity on two commercial dairy farms - one in Devon and one in Monmouthshire. The study took place during the September 2023 heatwave. 

The results showed that, in the housing environment with minimal ventilation, high yielding cows in peak lactation were at most risk of heat stress. Milk production in these cows was impacted for up to 20 days following the heat stress event, with an average of 50 litres loss per cow across the period.

However, the results found that improving air flow with mechanical ventilation system was proven to increase the cow's ability to cope with heat stress. 

Andrew Gardner, technical director at Galebreaker, said: “Using Smartbell ear tag technology and CCTV footage to monitor cow behaviour, body temperature and rumination activity, we found that cows housed in a cubicle shed with a Galebreaker VentTube Cool system were more resilient to heat stress, and able to hold off for longer before we saw drops in milk production.

"These cows were then found to recover within one or two days following the heat stress event, minimising any losses.

“Cows under the Galebreaker VentTube also spent a greater amount of time lying, benefitting from the ‘chill effect’ of the ventilation drawing in fresh air from outside. This is likely to result in reduced incidences of lameness seen in the months following the heat stress period.”

The study also showed how health monitoring technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to flag when animals are exhibiting early signs of heat stress, can work well in connection with automatic ventilation systems, such as the Galebreaker VentLogic® controllers.

“The insights from our findings have proven how AI-powered technologies such as Smartbell’s ear tags could be used as a control for activating environmental cooling systems precisely when and where they are required," he added. 

“This would further improve the cost effectiveness and viability of a mechanical ventilation systems, which ensure that energy usage is more than offset by the beneficial impacts of improving cow comfort and resilience to heat stress.

"This would help address the recognised issue with the running costs of recirculation fans that are commonly used.”