Sunday, July 14, 2024
Chris Judd

Which is worse? Too hot or too cold?

How often have you heard “it’s too hot today,” or “it’s really cold this morning!” In our Country we can say with confidence; “just wait, in six months, it will be different.”
Thirty-five years ago, at one of the dairy conferences that we attended, one of the dairy barn ventilation speakers told us that ideal temperature for a milking cow was 42 degrees Fahrenheit. He continued by saying “there are a lot more days in the year that it’s warmer than 42 degrees than colder than 42.” Because the conference was in Pennsylvania, I could understand immediately. Then I thought; “I’ve combined corn in November with the cab door open because it’s too hot. I’ve also cropped in April when I just wore short pants and a tee shirt.”
Most of our old barns are a lot warmer when they are full of cows than it was out in a field that day. The point that the ventilation specialist was trying to make was that a barn full of milking cows was a lot easier to keep above 42 degrees in winter than it is keep below 42 degrees in summer. His real point was that excellent summer ventilation with lots of big fans and/or very large opening walls with “roll-up curtains” is a necessity.
Now thirty-five years later, we visit many highly populated barns that have “timed cold water misters” over the feed bunks which spray a fine mist of cold water over the cows backs in the heat of summer. Large fans over the cows blow air on the cattle which evaporates the cold water that, by now, was warmed by the animal. This helps to cool the animals by evaporation of the water now warmed from their backs.
Before the white man even set foot in North America, many First Nation communities moved spring and fall. They spent their summers high in the forests where it was cooler. They moved in the fall down to where it was warmer in the winter and also built larger communal living where several families wintered in long-houses that were easier to keep heat in than dozens of individual tee-pees.
We live in a hundred year old house that used to have only two ply of newspaper glued to the inside of the brick walls for insulation. The windows only had single pane glass. It took many cords of dry hardwood from our bush to keep it livable in winter. Because the pump and large water tank in the basement supplied both the house and the barn with a couple hundred animals, the water was always cold.
It takes 50 gallons of water per day for each milk cow. We learned that if we pointed a large “basket fan” at the 80 gallon cold water tank, the air in the basement got quite cold in summer. If we took the back off the duct where the furnace fan drew it’s air, it would suck the cold basement air in and blow it all through the house. This “poor-man’s” air conditioner cooled the old house for many years until we moved the dairy herd up the road a mile or two.
When Jeannie’s mom moved into a senior living apartment, she donated a little air conditioner which we installed each summer in an upstairs window opening. It wasn’t as efficient as the “cold water air” that the thirsty dairy herd supplied, but it was great compared to nothing.
Several years ago, we replaced the old single pane windows, and a few newer double pane windows, with triple pane windows. I could hardly believe the difference in insulating value of new triple pane windows over the old single pane windows, even if they had storm windows over them.
That same year cousins of ours from the north gave us an indoor-outdoor thermometer which sits on our kitchen table. It was interesting to watch the large difference in outside temperature from daytime to nighttime. Because the old air-conditioner wouldn’t fit in the new triple-glazed window opening, we had to find a new way to cool the old house in summer. After pricing central-air and heat-pumps, we decided to try to use the cool night air that comes free most nights. The indoor-outdoor thermometer showed that the night air got cooler than the inside air just before we went to bed. That’s when we open the windows to let the cool air in. The outside air stays cooler than the inside air until after 7 a.m. That’s when we close the windows to keep the house cool all day. Fresh air from open windows makes it nice to sleep and we don’t have need for an air conditioner either.
There are usually one or two nights each year when the outside night air never gets cooler than 23 degrees Celcius, but those are the same nights that the corn grows all night. To an old farmer, the thought of the corn growing all night helps you forget about one or two warm nights. Thanks to Judy and Arnold for the indoor-outdoor thermometer.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for


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