The Trouw Nutrition HealthyLife project aims at improving sustainability of dairy farming by increasing longevity and performance of dairy cows. A HealthyLife Grant of €10,000 was offered towards on-farm innovations that enhance the longevity and well-being of cows, thus improving sustainability of dairy farming. The winner of the grant is Dr. Tom Chamberlain for his project “Raising the awareness of heat stress problems with dairy farmers”.
The project has two important aims. The first one is to increase awareness that heat stress can also affect cattle in temperate climate zones such as Europe and the coastal areas of Latin America and North America. Dr. Chamberlain explains: “A common way to quantify the risk of heat stress is the Temperature Humidity Index (THI). This has two limitations. Firstly, threshold values are often based on studies working with cows that are acclimatized to high environmental temperatures and humidity. Threshold values in cattle in moderate climates, can be as low as 62. Secondly, the THI threshold values are only applicable to housed cattle. There is a clear call for data from grazed cattle in moderate climates.
“In grazing situations it is preferrable to work with the Dairy Heat Load Index (DHLI, Lee, 2017), which is based upon recordings of humidity and temperature in a so called “black globe” which is placed where the cattle are grazing, giving you an accurate measurement of the conditions the cow really has to face. With the help of Trouw Nutrition and Lallemand Animal Nutrition, we now have real-time data for THI and DHLI available from seven farms in the South-West of England. The results are available in real-time through our webpage”.
The second aim of the project is to provide farmers with a better tool to help them with assessing heat stress in their herds. Both THI and DHLI are environment and not animal based. As such, they indicate to what extend animals are at risk, but they do not measure the effect of heat stress in animals. The project will develop a metric based on animal measurements. Dr Chamberlain continues: “Previous research workers have developed animal-based metrics but these have been too invasive or expensive for commercial use. Our intention is to develop a metric that is simple to apply on commercial dairy farms.”.
Cesar Bratz, technical manager at Trouw Nutrition adds: “At Trouw Nutrition, we are continuously looking for ways to help dairy farmers to increase their Lifetime Daily Yield. We are proud to support the project of Dr. Chamberlain, because we are convinced it will help creating awareness that heat stress is a common problem also in countries with moderate climates. Thanks to the endeavors of Dr. Chamberlain, farmers will not only be able to avoid loss of production, but they will also be able to avoid serious animal welfare issues as a result of heat stress.”