Cows at Dubai farm get cold showers to produce more milk

New efficiencies, facilities and investment are keeping the heat off cows and boosting the amount of milk each one produces at the Al Rawabi dairy farm in Al Khawaneej.

Cows pass through a shower at Al Rawabi dairy farm. Jaime Puebla / The National
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DUBAI // Give a cow a cold shower and it will produce more milk.

That is the hope of the owners of a dairy farm in Dubai, which has installed a state-of-the-art shower system for its 11,000 cattle.

So far, the cows at the Al Rawabi dairy farm in Dubai's Al Khawaneej seem more than pleased with their new showers.

"When they lie down, it means they're comfortable," said Rami Hamad, the farm manager, "and since they started showering, they've been very happy."

Last February, the farm installed 20 motion-sensing shower sprinklers that switch on when a cow is under them.

The farm's 2,300 pregnant cows shower each time they are milked - three times a day - while the other 8,700 shower once a day. "When they're wet, they stay cool," said Mr Hamad. "When that happens, they eat more food and, therefore, produce more milk."

The showers are not the only new cooling measure. The farm has also installed 600 coolers from the US to air condition its sheds and it has changed the design of its shed by lowering the roof to make them easier to cool.

"In summer, milk production goes down by 40 per cent," he said. "We're trying to make the cows forget about the heat so we do anything to avoid it. You can't get rid of humidity with a high roof."

The aim is to bring the temperature down from the summer highs of 50°C to more like 23°C - and certainly below 30°C. "At the moment, it's 30°C outside but where the cows are, it's 22°C."

The walkways will also be covered.

"The cows used to run here because they were so hot," said Nasser Hassan, the farm's unit manager. "But now, they just walk. The hardest months are usually June, July and August."

That has helped the farm increase its milk output by 50,000 litres a day since last year.

"We went from 120,000 litres of milk a day last year to 170,000 litres a day so far," said Mr Hamad. "We expect to reach 200,000 by the end of next year."

The Holstein and Simmental cows from Holland and Germany can give as much as 30 litres a day and Mr Hamad is hoping a cross-breeding programme can boost that to more than 40 litres. The farm is also revamping in other areas with new facilities for hoof-trimming, bulls and a maternity ward.

For 21 hours each day, 210 cows are milked every seven minutes - with an hour cleaning break every seven hours - in two of three milking parlours. Each cow has a chip to record its milk production.

Next month the cows will have special collars from Italy containing sensors to measure their activity.

"We can sense when they're sick or when we are able to impregnate them faster," said Mr Hamad. "Everything works on Wi-Fi now, from feeding to milking and cow management."

A new farm is also due to open in Liwa, 120 kilometres from Abu Dhabi, with 6,000 cows.

"There is no humidity there and that is our main headache, especially in September and October," Mr Hamad said.

"Both farms should cover the demand in the UAE, Qatar and Oman for the next five years."