Heat and drought are inflicting perilous strain on dairy cows across the globe, drying up their milk production and threatening the long-term global supply of everything from butter to baby formula.
Volumes of dairy are forecast to sink by nearly half a million metric tons this year in major exporter Australia as farmers exit the industry after years of pressure from heat waves. In India, small-scale farmers are contemplating investing in cooling equipment they’d have to stretch to afford. And producers in France had to pause making one type of high-quality cheese when parched fields left grass-fed cows with nowhere to graze.
Some of the world’s biggest milk-making regions are becoming less hospitable to these animals due to extreme weather brought on by climate change: Cows don’t yield as much milk under the stress of scorching temperatures, and arid conditions and storms compound the problem by withering or destroying the grass and other crops they eat.