Surviving Summer on the Dairy Farm: A Veterinary Perspective
Many farmers, when asked why they love dairy farming, mention the variety each season brings. The job changes day by day and season by season, offering unique challenges. And the best way to appreciate each season is to be well prepared.
That’s why, leading into summer, we decided to get a veterinary perspective on how best to plan for the hotter months.
Robyn Plunkett, a much-valued member of our team here at Australian Probiotic Solutions, is qualified to offer just such a perspective.
Robyn started her career as a veterinarian, working in mixed animal practice in South East Queensland. It was during this time that she met her dairy farming husband and moved onto the farm, where they milked cows for a further 35 years.
The couple have three adult children, all of whom have remained close to the land in one way or another.
When it was time to step away from dairy farming, getting involved in the animal probiotics industry was a natural choice. Robyn says she was really drawn to the preventative nature of probiotics, enabling farmers to prevent animal health issues, rather than just treating them after the animal was already in poor health.
Summer challenges on the farm
According to Robyn, the number one challenge on the farm during summer is heat. Hot weather, which may or may not be coupled with high humidity, can significantly impact animal health and productivity.
Moisture and heat set up the perfect breeding ground for mastitis – sitting in a pathogen-laden environment is not conductive to good udder health! Add to this additional stressors such as dogs, human activity and exertion in uncomfortable weather conditions, and an infection becomes even more likely.
In addition, conception rates drop significantly with every degree over 27°C.
Robyn’s top suggestions for caring for your herd over summer
- Always ensure your herd has access to clean, fresh drinking water
- Have sprinklers running in the dairy, but remember to make sure there is adequate ventilation, particularly on very hot days – without it, cows overheat quickly
- Add roof insulation where needed to maintain a more consistent temperature
- Avoid overcrowding, even for a few hours
- Consider seasonal or batch calving to avoid the peak heat
- Reduce external stressors such as over-excited dogs or long walks during the peak heat of the day
- Add Betaine to your mineral mix starting two weeks before a heat event. Speak to your nutritionist for guidance on this
- Increase the nutrient density in your ration, while decreasing fibre. This enables stock to get the most nutrients possible, even when they are choosing to eat less
- Feed your ration in batches to avoid the mix overheating in the paddock during the day
- Offer high quality forage
- Add a good probiotic and yeast mix to your ration for immune system health. Have a chat to us about which product is best for your herd – get in touch here.
How probiotics and yeast help mitigate the impacts of heat stress in dairy cows
85% of the mammal immune system is driven by gut health. When you improve the immune system, the animal is less vulnerable to external stressors and pathogens. Adding high quality probiotics to your ration can establish colonies of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Yeast is also helpful, in that it has been found to stabilise the rumen, reducing acidosis. This means your herd feels healthier and less stressed.
By supporting immune system and rumen health, cows are more resilient. Reports from clients all over Australia have indicated that in such cows, milk production and components drop less and recover more quickly when the herd is faced with heat stress.
To learn more about heat stress, be sure to read last week’s blog post, Heat Stress in Dairy Herds: Get the Facts. Read it here