WEST LAFAYETTE, IN (AP)--Could too much sun cause a cow's milk production to drop?

Agricultural experts at Purdue University aren't yet suggesting that farmers smother their cattle with sunscreen each morning. But they have encountered two cases this year in which Indiana dairy cows and beef cattle suffered red, blistered skin and subsequent scars that probably are making them less productive farm animals.

"If the body is having to repair tissues like skin, it will take nutrients that animals need for production or growth," said Timothy R. Johnson, a dairy expert at Purdue University. "It's not wiping out herds like foot-and-mouth disease, but it is having an impact."

A Harrison County farmer near Corydon asked extension agents for help after several of his cows were burned four years in a row, Johnson said.

About 15% of the 300-head herd had symptoms of sunburn during a check this spring, Johnson said.

Farm animals such as sheep also can suffer sunburn, particularly if they've been sheared, Johnson said. Pigs protect themselves by wallowing in the mud, leaving a protective coating that shields the skin as clothing does for humans.

While sunburn is more common in Sun Belt states, pastures in Indiana and other Midwestern states often contain certain vegetation that can cause grazing cows to develop sun sensitivity, Johnson said.

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