Water is a crucial nutrient. It makes up approximately 87 to 88 percent of milk on a volume basis. But how often do we pay care to the quality and quantity of water available to livestock?
Water helps animals cool body temperature through saliva, sweat and breathing. Without the cooling effects of water, animal performance is the first to suffer. This can be in terms of either liveweight gain or milk production. As the majority of milk is made of water, then shortages in water lead to severe drops in production.
When cows are exposed to temperatures greater than 24 degrees Celsius, high humidity and high Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) forages, their water consumption may increase by greater than 40 percent. Up to 60 percent of a cow’s core body temperature is generated by the rumen each day. The more fibrous the feed, the more heat generated. Summer forages typically have a higher dry matter percentage than that of other seasons, further compounding the matter. The absence of shade increases water requirements by 17 percent.
Water should be clean and palatable, with no odour or taste. It should also be free from toxic compounds and bacteria or algae growth. A great rule is the taste test. If you wouldn’t expect to drink water out of the trough, why should you expect your cow to? Even thirsty cows can refuse to drink from water that is bitter or unpalatable. If in doubt of water quality, send a sample to Hills Laboratories who are able to test this for you. Summer is a good time to empty and clean water troughs, and check out fittings and connecting pipework for damage or wear. The water should be clean, clear and free from algae growth. Cows drink more water from a clean trough.
Dairy cows need 70 L of water per day over a five hour period. That is 14 L of water per hour in terms of flow rate. Check flow rates at water troughs around the farm to make sure the water system is able to keep up. Troughs underneath fences allow access to only one third of the trough circumference on either side of the fence. Boss cows can bully heifers away from water more easily in this scenario.
Trough capacity needs to be half the hourly demand. Larger herds (for example greater than 400 cows) may need two troughs in each paddock. Allow access to water troughs along the races to and from the dairy shed. This aids in keeping cows hydrated and comfortable. If trough access or capacity is insufficient, consider investing in more water troughs or the flow capacity of your water system. Your cows are going to thank you for it.
Water flow per hour required: 200 cows x 14 Litres water per hour = 2,800 Litres per hour
Water flow per minute required: 2,800 Litres / 60 minutes = 47 Litres per minute
Trough capacity: 2,800 Litres x 50 percent = 1,400 Litres capacity.
For more information on water requirements and trough capacity for your livestock, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative or visit your local store.
Peter Moore, GM of PGG Wrightson Livestock joins Jamie McKay on the country.
He says coronavirus and drought is combining to produce a perfect storm and a gridlock which is putting downward pressure on prices.
Shane Gerken - South Island Livestock Manager
The bulk of the on farm lamb sales are now completed, overall the lamb sales have gone reasonable well, as there has been good buying support throughout the South Island especially cropping farmers who are starting to purchase.
The ewe market continues steadily for ewes trading in the paddock. Twotooth ewes continue to sell, generally prices are $200-$250 with some good lines making over $300. Annual Draft ewes are selling in the range of $130-$170.
The store cattle trade is quiet, with those selling having to lower their price expectations to meet the market. Would-be vendors are hanging out for improved conditions and are not willing to offload stock on a soft market. The declining beef schedules and long waits for kill space hasn’t helped the overall situation.
Matt Macfie - National Livestock Sales Manager
After a fantastic run right up into December it has been a challenging start to the year in the North Island. Great weather for summer holidays unfortunately means challenging times for our farmer clients now experiencing drought conditions across nearly all parts of the Island. Having recently visited with the Northern team in Whangarei I got to see and hear the on the ground situation and water is in very short supply across the north. Kaikoke and north of there has literally dried up with schools and meat processors being closed for part of the week due to lack of water. This region is desperate for water and as I write this report there is still nothing in the forecast that suggests anything different in the near future.
And of course added to the dry conditions is the impact the Coronavirus is having on our export markets. This has put a strain on available space for processing and schedule prices are falling back quickly. While the impact has been serious and immediate if we look to similar instances (SARS outbreak) they don’t usually have a long term lifespan and once the issue has been dealt with demand and price can very quickly come back to similar levels.
Talking with the NI team there is general acceptance that the livestock we would have normally already traded by now is still on the land and waiting for both rain and processing space to become available. This means that while the larger volumes are not currently moving, at some point they will and we will then be inundated with volumes.
We all look forward to that happening!
Jamie Cunningham - National Dairy Sales Manager
With the dry conditions throughout the North Island and the Flooding in Southland it would be fair to say that things are becoming quite challenging for our clients and our dairy beef market is feeling the impact of this.
Its pleasing to see that in the last week a large number of export heifers have gone into quarantine and that the affects of the Coronavirus hasn’t had an impact on this to date, the export space is very competitive at present and the demand for the rising one year heifers is looking to continue for the foreseeable future, this is a very valuable market for our clients and something that we need to support as much as possible as the cashflow ability of this should not be underestimated.
Dairy forward contracts are starting to come in well now and we have seen a large increase over the last few weeks, to date values are holding on very well on the forward sales and the quality stock are well sort after. As we deal with the dry conditions its very important that we are proactive with our vendors and have discussions around cow condition early and that we support both vendor and purchaser through this process. If you do have surplus dairy livestock to sell, cows or heifers please contact your local PGG Wrightson agent.
One of our biggest challenge at present is works space for cull cows as the meat processors are at capacity with chiller space its very important that you plan ahead and get space booked well in advance (currently can be 3 weeks plus wait).
As we look forward to the Autumn rain and cooler weather, we hope that all parts of the country have a speedy recovery as that will enable farmers to get setup for the Winter.
Callum Stewart - National Genetics Manager
If your looking for an alternative in your breeding strategies, coming up this month on the 27th we have a Major Flock Reduction online sale which will be hosted by Bidr - our virtual sale yards. Elite Charollais have the biggest diversity of the breed in genetics than any other breeder, these sheep are well known for meat quality and yield. Please click on the link and if you would like to know more don’t hesitate to get in touch. https://bidr.co.nz/auction/189
Wiltshire’s are currently in the spotlight and offering people another alternative, this breed has become popular amongst farmers with the ability to fully shred, resistance to FE and performance and phenotype. I think no matter what your looking for in your program - the genetics in the wider agriculture industry have shown good attributes and always looking at advancing.
While we still have a handful of Ram sales to go in March, this is a prime opportunity to be talking with the specialists around your breeding programs and also your bull requirements moving forward, we can offer sound advice and the latest insights to help build robust future proofed systems.