Farmer Focus: Heat stresses but milk contract relieves

I am writing this in an attempt to escape from the intensity of this current heatwave.

The past week from lunchtime onwards has been horribly humid. The cows are really feeling the impact.

Although milk is stable, the recent vet visit has shown the hidden cost of the heat, with seven out of nine cows in-calf, although three were reabsorbing at 35 days. 

This time of the year always highlights the inadequacies of our water system. Our bore hole engineer marvels at the amount of water we have available, but the pipe network around the farm is a series of add-ons, with the new shed being at the end of it.

See also: 6 feed strategies to mitigate heat stress in cattle

So on hot days it is a real struggle to keep the cows happy. I think it will have to get put to the top of the list for next year. Ironically, it is the housed cows that look the most content in this heat.

We have spent the last few weeks trying to improve things for both staff and animals. Cow flow in the parlour continues to be a time-costly frustration.

Our first step has been to add rubber matting to the deck of the parlour and extend this two cow-lengths into the collecting yard.

This went in 10 days ago and has certainly made the cows more comfortable, but we haven’t yet noticed an improvement in cow flow. Of course the weather isn’t helping.

We have reduced flies and cooled the cows by installing a very basic garden sprinkler system along the roof of the collecting yard. This works a treat.

The best news I’ve saved to last. Two weeks ago, I received a phone call on my way back from market. We have been very fortunate to be given a milk contract to supply the Co-op which started on 1 August.

We are excited to be able to plan ahead with a degree of security, something that has been incredibly alien to us over the past five years.

A poor milk price puts everyone under pressure. It has been a huge effort by the team to get us this opportunity, and it shows that sometimes hard work does pay off.