How to keep dairy cattle cool when the heat is on

How to keep dairy cattle cool when the heat is on

NSW scientist Alice Shirley has received a prestigious award for her work on how livestock can better manage summer heat. Here are my findings.

Negotiations on a free trade deal with the European Union collapsed overnight, with EU negotiators bringing nothing new to the table, according to Agriculture Minister Murray Watt. The EU wants access to Australian mining sector commodities such as rare earth materials, which are essential to achieving the net zero transition. Australia wants to be able to export beef, sheepmeat, dairy products and sugar to the EU tariff and duty-free. “Now they are back with the same offer, with some modifications,” Watt said. “We have been absolutely consistent throughout this process that we will only enter into a free trade agreement with the European Union if it is in Australia’s national interest.” Shadow Trade Secretary Kevin Hogan said: “I support the government not to do the deal. “This would have been a bad deal for the agriculture sector, and it’s not a good deal for Australia.”

A University of Sydney graduate student this week won the emerging scientists competition at the NSW Dairy Research Foundation’s 2023 symposium.

Ms. Shirley is writing her thesis entitled: “Uncovering and exploiting diversity in gridded temperature data of dairy cows to mitigate heat stress.”

In simple terms, she says her research looks at how cows cope with the heat in the summer.

“(The cattle) have fancy sensors that feed us data, every ten minutes, 24 hours a day,” Ms. Shirley said.

“We primarily look at temperature data but it also provides information on activity, rumination and some other features.

“We already know that drinking water can have a sustained effect on the core body temperature of dairy cows. So we really wanted to look at how much water each individual animal was taking in to see how they were using it to adapt to the climate at that time.

University of Sydney student Alice Shirley with her Rosebud goat.

Ms Shirley used historical data from three dairy farms in Victoria over a four-year period to assess the impact and fluctuations of water consumption.

“In terms of results, (cattle) drink more in the summer than in the winter,” she said. “The net rumen temperature drops less in the summer than in the winter because the farms we are looking at have external water sources.

“We want to explore further whether providing cooling water to cattle in the summer has an internally optimal effect on cows. We have seen that so far.”

Originally from Cronulla in Sydney’s southern suburbs, Dame Shirley’s family ties to rural New South Wales stimulated her interest in agricultural science.

She undertook seasonal work on a commercial dairy goat farm, which gave her insight into the practical implications of her research at the farm level.

Dairy Research Foundation director Yani Garcia said the NSW event highlighted research conducted in Australia and overseas.

“We have ten PhD scientists and young emerging scientists giving presentations over the two days,” Professor Garcia said.

“The presentations give us an understanding of how to apply this research on the farm and improve livestock.”

Dairy UP president Niall Blair said the symposium was a joint effort between Dairy Australia, his organization and the University of Sydney.

“The symposium is about making sure this important dairy research doesn’t sit on a shelf gathering dust,” the former NSW Agriculture Minister said.

“We take that knowledge gathered over months and years and share it with the rest of the dairy industry so it can be used on the farm.”

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(tags for translation)University of Sydney

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