SIGNS such as lolling tongues and salivating are a clear indication of heat stress in dairy cows. Photo supplied

IN spite of the recent break in the heat, farmers are watching out for problems as a result of the recent warm and dry conditions.

Eastern Bay dairy farmer Greg Malcolm said the heat had not caused problems for any of his cows.

“It’s certainly been hot and uncomfortable for animal and man, but I haven’t seen cows with their tongues hanging out or drooling a lot, which is a classic sign of when they’re really stressed,” he said.

“We have shade for them and being close to the coast, we often get an afternoon sea breeze, which helps a bit too.”

He said in the case of a real heatwave arriving, there were ways to keep their animals comfortable.

“We’d move them, after they’ve had a feed and it gets into the heat of the day, into the shade of a shelter belt. We’d possibly alter our milking times so they’re not in a stinking hot shed in the middle of the day,” he said.

“We put a mist sprayer in the cow shed to keep them cool and the flies down while they’re being milked, plus a sprinkler in the yard.”

Mr Malcom is holding a field day on Friday at his farm on 20 Gow Road where an animal behaviour specialist will talk about heat stress.

The event begins at 11am.

Meanwhile, Manawahe beef and sheep meat farmer Brent Mountfort said conditions were potentially problematic. Though effects of the heat itself can be mitigated, there were side effects that were harder to deal with.

Though spore counts for facial eczema, a fungus that attacks sheep and cattle, are currently low – if a warm heavy rain arrives, that could change.

“In a hot and dry summer you end up with a lot of dead matter, dead grass or whatever.

“If you get rain, that’s when there’s a potential for (facial) eczema spore counts to explode, and you have to watch out for that as well,” he said.

“A lot of us are trying to breed eczema-tolerant sheep but it still doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get eczema.”

The hills and scrub of the Manawahe provide good natural cover for animals, but with efforts to protect native bush and clean water, many of these areas are no longer accessible to stock.

“Most of us have fenced off the bush gullies and smaller streams, where they naturally like to go and hang out, so you have to make sure you have other shade for them,” Mr Mountfort said.

“Our cattle are black and that attracts heat. The optimum temperature for cows is 15 degrees. When you get the temperatures we’ve had and they haven’t got shade, it’ll potentially cause stress.”

That means farmers keep watch to ensure there is plenty of water.

“It’s about making sure the troughs are working properly,” he said.

“At this time of year, the younger cattle sometimes decide they want to put their feet in the water to cool down.”

They also ensure stock is not over worked.

“In the heat of the day farmers won’t do a lot of stock work. We leave the animals be – just make sure they have shade and water,” he said.

Farmers also have issues specific to sheep that must be taken care of.

“What most farmers do this time of the year, usually before Christmas, is shear their capital stock – the ewes – and then scramble to shear their lambs too,” he said.

“Otherwise the sheep spend all their time seeking out shade and that’s where the blowflies wait for them and flies are always an issue,” he said.

mark.rieder@thebeacon.co.nz

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