NZ Dairy Spring 2021

52 | nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Mary-Ann Mathis Lactating cow needs Dianna Malcolm T okoroa farmer Mary-Ann Mathis knows that summer brings challenges when it comes to managing cows and sustaining production. Mary-Ann and her son, Colin, milk 1100 cows on three farms, including a dry stock unit, in South Waikato. This mother and son duo have continued the family’s farming legacy, which was started by Mary-Ann and her late husband, Adolph,from a sharemilking position in 1978. Mary-Ann also taught agriculture at Forest View High School until last year and she is Tokoroa’s Branch Chairman of Federated Farmers. Cows have a number of additional challenges when it comes to managing heat. Because they are only able to sweat 10% as much has humans do, heat and humidity rapidly impact on their comfort and production. They are most comfortable at temperatures which range from three to 18 degrees Celsius. Once the mercury heads towards 26-degrees, feed intake – which drives production – starts falling. Fresh cows are more impacted. From 38-degrees (with 20% humidity) serious cooling and heat manage- ment is recommended. And, at 38-degrees (with 80% humidity) conditions are potentially lethal. Mary-Ann says the humidity levels in the Waikato summer is a king-hitter for production and fertility. With temperatures peaking at 35-degrees – with 80% humidity clocked last January and February – it’s a serious conversation. US University studies have proven that cows cooled by shade and water sprinklers will eat up- wards of 60% more feed than cows with no cooling. Lactating cows need close to 200 litres of water a day Dairy NZ’s recommended water intake for dairy cows is 70 litres. However, an extension study at Michigan State University by Craig Thomas revealed it’s more in the ballpark of 113 to 189 litres a day. Thomas also noted that the highest daily drinking water requirement (per unit pound of bodyweight) for a mammal is not an elephant, nor a rhinoceros. It is the modern dairy cow. A dairy cow’s daily diet breakdown includes 12% dry matter intake, with the remaining 88% water. Mary-Ann says there are some simple things dairymen can do heading into summer. “Clean your water troughs out,” Mary-Ann says. “Cows need clean water. And, I think cows need more water than many people realise. In resource consents I think that’s really underestimated. I also think farms probably overestimate the capacity of water that’s actually available to their farm. “Part of my farm water is supplied from town and my water line there is only 25mm, which isn’t that big. So, if the town is struggling to get water, then I’m struggling behind them for the cows.” Mary-Ann said they have worked hard to make summer comfortable for the cows on the farms. Over time Mary-Ann adds that they have been working to improve the water available to the cows by increasing the number and size of troughs, in addition to and location. They had tried the 16-hour milking intervals two years ago, but it wasn’t for them. They now milk twice-a-day, and in the summer they offer their herds a bigger feed at night – when the cows are cooler and able to eat more. “That works quite well. We also have quite a lot of trees, and we’re planting more. I’ve tried sprin- klers, but it gets too humid here and the flies are terrible. Sprinklers would also mean the farms can exceed their water consents for shed use – some- thing many people don’t realise. So, we’ve gone more for shade and we’re really focussed on not having the cows in the shed for too long.” “Cows need clean water. And, I think cows need more water than many people realise. In resource consents I think that’s really underestimated.” Colin Mathis (background) with Louis Mathis, Noah Hunt and Marley Mathis. The milking platform. VETERINARY SERVICES SOUTH WAIKATO Veterinary Services 19 Swanston, Tokoroa PH. (07) 886 6413 TOTAL ANIMAL CARE FOR THE SOUTH WAIKATO 75 Tirau Street, Putaruru PH. (07) 883 3018 109 State Highway 30, Whakamaru PH. (07) 882 8685 FARM ANIMAL SERVICES • SMALL ANIMAL SERVICES • DAIRY RESOURCES Steve Bowe 027 487 8981 OR Grant Bowe 027 220 2010 RD4 Cambridge For all your lime and fertiliser needs Obligation Free Quotes NZ DAIRY 6 X 8 ADVERT 257 x 60 mm | 0800 FERTCO Proudly working with top dairy farmers for over 20 years Soil testing Herbage testing Quality advice Supply environmentally sustainable products Customised fertiliser recommendations Nutrient budgets