Autumn 2017 Newsletter

Water, water everywhere…some good, some evil

For cow health and productivity, water is friend and foe in equal measure. The problem side comes about, of course, when water vapour causes high humidity inside cow housing.

This is why many dairy farmers have removed some of the ridge tiles from cubicle buildings, to increase ventilation and make the indoor environment better suited to good health. Otherwise, heat stress can kick in as low as 22C (72F) when relative humidity reaches 70%. So a nice warm cubicle house to us can be an uncomfortable sweat box to cows.

At any time of year, lower humidity is also good for respiratory health. A significant but unseen contributor to raised humidity is perspiration from hard working cows, whose metabolism is working faster than an elite endurance athlete’s. Indeed, a cow giving 31 litres a day generates 20% more heat than one at 18 litres, according to NADIS [ref 1].

This heat causes perspiration, which is transferred onto the bedding when cows are lying down. With an ultra-high absorbency bedding like EnviroBed Premium, much of this perspiration is soaked up instead of evaporating. Lower humidity is a direct result. This bedding material also denies essential moisture for the survival of fly eggs and mastitis pathogens.

Stephen Cook at West Heddon Farm near Barnstaple says “Cow comfort and cleanliness both improved since switching from chopped straw to Envirobed Premium. Last winter, we only had one case of clinical mastitis. We made no other change but the bedding.”

The decision about bedding material is also important because of the direct link between cow comfort and milk production.

Independent housing specialist Ivor Davey from Cow Plan says, “From 10 up to 14 hours a day, each extra hour a cow is lying down will result in 1.6 litres more milk for no additional feed. This extra milk comes from energy saved by lying rather than standing, it really is that simple.”

Based on this, cows lying down for 12 hours instead of 10 can be expected to give 3.2 litres/day more milk. At 27p/litre over a seven month winter, this could be worth £180/cow additional income.

Not many materials satisfy all the functions listed below, which makes cost comparisons less than straightforward when you’re deciding the best option.

Also price per tonne doesn’t account for better or poorer performance in the listed functions, or the amount of you have to use per day. EnviroBed Premium is very light and fluffy, for example, so one load goes a long way and usually costs rather less per day than apparently cheaper materials.

How do you compare apples to oranges?

Indeed, a recent study found typical usage of EnviroBed Premium to work out at about 10p/cubicle/day, with all the associated advantages. So if cost saving is your main priority, then cost per cubicle per day, week or month is surely a better measure than cost per tonne without regard to how long each load will last.

Back in the cubicles, bedding has a demanding list of functions for something so simple:

•   Comfortable and absorbent

•   Stays put in the cubicle

•   Suitable for the slurry system

•   Inhospitable to flies or mastitis bacteria

•   Easy to dispense

Maize silage £-value maximised by acetic acid

Preventing maize silage heating up during feed out, thereby maximising feed value and financial contribution, depends on the concentration of acetic acid, not lactic acid, produced during fermentation, according to microbiologist Dr David Adimpong [ref2 ].

The independent research report he refers to states, “acetic acid has been proven to be the sole substance responsible for increased aerobic stability, and this acid acts as an inhibitor of spoilage organisms.”

It adds that using inoculants producing only lactic acid, “leads to silages which have low stability against aerobic deterioration.”

Based on this, Dr Adimpong has developed an inoculant with two bacterial strains that produce acetic acid. For rapid initial fermentation and maximum capture of nutrients going into the clamp, OptiSile Maize also contains L plantarum, the industry standard lactic acid strain.

“Farmers growing maize know that heating up when the clamp is open increases at higher energy values,” he adds. “The better silage you make, the more you can lose from spoilage.”

To find out how to raise your maize silage to a new level speak to an Envirosystems adviser today on 01772 860085.