OSAKA – The prospect of climate change has dairy farmers concerned that higher summer temperatures may mean reduced milk production, but a Japanese company thinks it has a solution to allow cows to beat the heat.
Major apparel firm Gunze Ltd. has developed a high-tech garment to keep the cows from overheating, automatically cooling down the animals with water so they remain comfortable in the often oven-like dairies where they are milked.
The wearable device, named Ushi-ble, is made of a stretch “feel-cool” fabric often used in sportswear. It covers the cow’s neck and shoulders, making it look like the animal is wearing a stretched out T-shirt or cowl.
The Ushi-ble has a sensor that monitors how wet the material is, and when it becomes too dry, water is pumped through a tube to douse the animal. The water then vaporizes to bring down the cow’s hide temperature by around 5 degrees, the company said.
The device has been tested by Gunze and its partner, the Kyoto Prefectural Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Technology Center, and has proven effective in minimizing the drop in milk production, which typically declines about 10 percent during the summer.
Currently, many dairies have sprinkler systems that aim to keep cattle cool in summer, but the method tends to leave standing water and can cause hygienic problems.
Gunze said its Ushi-blemay also have positive effects on bovine fertility rates in the summertime, which also fall as temperatures rise.