Intense wildfires in the Western U.S. have been exacerbated by ongoing dry and hot weather conditions that have ravaged productive land. In 2020, 10.3 million acres burned across the U.S., the most since 1960.

For Western producers left behind in a cloud of smoke and devastation, University of Idaho researchers have investigated the impact of smoke on dairy cattle. Scientists found that milk production in cows declined roughly 2.5 pounds per animal for every 100 micrograms per cubic meter rise in airborne smoke particles.

Researchers hypothesized that the decline comes from impaired udder development, cellular turnover, or disruption of endocrine or metabolism functions due to the smoke. Blood samples from impacted dairy cattle yielded higher carbon dioxide levels and calves born with fewer white blood cells.

Researchers suggested enclosed barns with air filters and limiting animal exertion on smokey days could reduce the impact on dairy herds.

Read more on wildfire smoke’s impact on dairy cattle here.