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Projected heat stress challenges and abatement opportunities for U.S. milk production


  • Kpoti M Gunn
  • Michael A Holly
  • Tamie L Veith
  • Anthony R Buda
  • Rishi Prasad
  • C Alan Rotz
  • Kathy J Soder
  • Anne M K Stoner


Cost-effective heat mitigation strategies are imperative for maintaining milk production and dairy farm profitability in the U.S. with projected climate change. This study investigated the cost-effectiveness of four heat abatement strategies, including Minimal (open barn or shading), Moderate (forced ventilation), High (fans and misting), and Intense (air conditioning). Heat stress and subsequent impacts on milk production per cow were predicted across nine climatic regions in the U.S. for early (2015 to 2034), mid (2045 to 2064) and late (2081 to 2100) 21st century, using downscaled climate projections. Heat abatements were used to adjust predicted milk production losses and illustrate the potential to reduce milk production losses due to heat stress. Economic analysis included a cost-benefit ratio calculation associated with the implementation of each heat abatement. Results showed that milk production losses were expected to accelerate across the U.S. at a mean rate of 174±7 kg/cow/decade, with the fastest rate in the Southeast region. Relative to Minimal heat abatement, Moderate, High, and Intense heat abatements increased annual milk production per cow by 3%, 4%, and 6% during early-21st century, 3%, 6%, and 11% during mid-21st century, and 3%, 8%, and 21% during late-21st century, respectively. The cost effectiveness of different heat abatement strategies generally increased with subsequently stronger heat abatements. In mid- and late-21st century, mean annual net values of High and Intense heat stress abatement implementation approached -$30 to $190 /cow and -$20 to $590 /cow, respectively, with the largest net annual benefit in late-21st century under Intense abatement. Findings from the study demonstrate the value of using downscaled climate projections to shed light on local and regional strategies to abate heat stress on cattle and mitigate potential milk production losses due to climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Kpoti M Gunn & Michael A Holly & Tamie L Veith & Anthony R Buda & Rishi Prasad & C Alan Rotz & Kathy J Soder & Anne M K Stoner, 2019. "Projected heat stress challenges and abatement opportunities for U.S. milk production," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(3), pages 1-21, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0214665
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214665

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nigel Key & Stacy Sneeringer, 2014. "Potential Effects of Climate Change on the Productivity of U.S. Dairies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1136-1156.
    2. Detlef Vuuren & Jae Edmonds & Mikiko Kainuma & Keywan Riahi & Allison Thomson & Kathy Hibbard & George Hurtt & Tom Kram & Volker Krey & Jean-Francois Lamarque & Toshihiko Masui & Malte Meinshausen & N, 2011. "The representative concentration pathways: an overview," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 109(1), pages 5-31, November.
    3. David Wolfe & Lewis Ziska & Curt Petzoldt & Abby Seaman & Larry Chase & Katharine Hayhoe, 2008. "Projected change in climate thresholds in the Northeastern U.S.: implications for crops, pests, livestock, and farmers," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 13(5), pages 555-575, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jaber Rahimi & John Yumbya Mutua & An M. O. Notenbaert & Diarra Dieng & Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, 0. "Will dairy cattle production in West Africa be challenged by heat stress in the future?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-21.
    2. Jaber Rahimi & John Yumbya Mutua & An M. O. Notenbaert & Diarra Dieng & Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, 2020. "Will dairy cattle production in West Africa be challenged by heat stress in the future?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 161(4), pages 665-685, August.
    3. Veltman, Karin & Rotz, C. Alan & Chase, Larry & Cooper, Joyce & Forest, Chris E. & Ingraham, Peter A. & Izaurralde, R. César & Jones, Curtis D. & Nicholas, Robert E. & Ruark, Matthew D. & Salas, Willi, 2021. "Assessing and reducing the environmental impact of dairy production systems in the northern US in a changing climate," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 192(C).

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