Summer heat stress in cows – better milk quality with Anco FIT

Summer heat stress in cows is known to reduce milk yields and milk quality, reducing the profitability of dairy farms, which is why it is important to find ways to effectively manage it on farms.

Higher producing cows are more sensitive to heat stress

Lactating dairy cows prefer ambient temperatures of between 5 and 25 °C, the “thermoneutral” zone. At ambient temperatures above 26°C, the cow reaches a point where she can no longer cool herself adequately and enters heat stress. Whereas the upper critical limit of the thermoneutral zone for dairy cattle is between 25 °C and 26 °C, the, the temperature-humidity index (THI) is below 72.

Higher producing cows, and thus multiparous cows, are more sensitive to the effects of heat stress compared to lower producing or primiparous cows. As milk yield increases from 35 to 45 kg/d, the heat stress threshold is decreased by 5°C. Recent studies show that modern cows become heat-stressed starting at an average THI of 68 with the levels of stress increasing with increasing THI values.

Higher-producing cows exhibit more signs of heat stress than lower-producing cows because higher-producing cows generate more heat as they eat more feed for higher production. They must get rid of the extra heat generated due to metabolizing more nutrients in the feed. As a result, much of the reduction seen in milk production is due to lower feed intake by the cow. Feed intake in lactating dairy cows starts to decline at around 25°C and drops more rapidly above 30°C.  High producing dairy cows also have a higher metabolic heat load produced through processes such as lactogenesis and milk secretion. Consequently, as milk production and metabolic heat production rise genetically, heat stress will increasingly limit the expression of genetic potential in the future.

The stage in the lactation curve at which the cow experiences heat stress is another important factor for the total lactation yield. Cows are less able to cope with heat stress during early lactation and heat stress has the biggest impact during the first 60 days of lactation. This is because cows are in negative energy balance and make up for the deficit by mobilizing body reserves in this early part of lactation. Catabolic processes are associated with heat production.

Summer heat stress in cows affects milk quality

Milk quality is important for producers to earn monetary bonuses through lower somatic cell counts and increased butterfat/protein, increasing farm profitability.

Controlling somatic cell count (SCC) is a year-round challenge for most dairy producers, and hot humid weather intensifies this challenge. Heat stress generally increases the production of free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to oxidative stress, which again has been associated with increased SCC in milk.

Results from studies on the impact of heat stress on milk components are inconsistent, however several studies have reported reduced milk fat and protein levels in response to heat stress. Some researches argue that fat yield decreases could be explained by a decrease in forage intake with low fiber levels, and protein decreases could be attributed to reduced DMI and energy intake when the animal is under heat stress. Other research has shown that milk fat depression during heat stress can be linked to depressed rumen health. Therefore, supporting optimal rumen function by nutritional means may help to reduce the negative impact of heat stress on milk fat.

Strategies to mitigate the negative effects of summer heat stress in cows

Cool water

It is highly important that cows are provided cool water during periods of high temperature. Water is the primary nutrient needed to make milk and cows drink up to 50 percent more water when the temperature-humidity index is above 80. Water should be easily accessible to cows and located in a position such that cows do not have to cross areas of hot sun.

Commercial trial with Anco FIT in cows during summer heat

Gut agility activators, such as Anco FIT and Anco FIT Farm are designed to support the cow to adapt to challenges including heat stress more efficiently by minimising stress reactions including oxidative stress at the cellular level, shifts in the rumen balance and reduced feed intake.

Feedback from a commercial dairy farm with 750 cows in Germany during months where temperatures were recorded above 26°C included that SCC over a period of 3 months were reduced by 13% and milk fat and protein levels increased by 3%. Furthermore, treatments for high SCC were reduced from 5 treatments/week to 1-2 treatments per week. Cows were fed a ration based on corn silage, grass silage, soya and grains, where Anco FIT was added at 30g/cow/day and received a milking concentrate in the milking robot.

It was concluded that feeding Anco FIT to dairy cows during hotter months helped the cows to cope with the heat better and reduce some of the stress reactions that would otherwise impact milk quality and cow wellbeing.

Related articles

How some cows can give heat stress the cold shoulder

How do I calculate the temperature humidity index (THI)?

Heat stress in sows – better lactation performance with Anco FIT

Heat stress in pigs – nutritional interventions that work

Anco Brazil poultry webinar has attracted great interest

In July Anco Brazil hosted a poultry webinar in co-operation with our distributor Evance, which caught the attention of an engaged audience in the Brazil poultry industry. The webinar aimed to provide inspiration for cost-effective poultry production in times of crisis.

Dr. Marco Aurelio Nunes, Technical Manager at Anco presented strategies to reduce production costs with the least possible impact on production indexes. This included nutritional solutions that can be used to increase resilience in birds and mitigate the impact of stressors on performance in poultry. He also shared some simple evaluation tools that can help egg producers determine, which strategy would be most cost-effective, based on their individual circumstances.

Marcelo Blumer, executive director at Anco Brazil commented: “We are excited about the amount of interest we could generate with our webinar and that attendees were fully engaged. The questions and answer session at the end showed us that people were following the webinar closely and were eager to learn more. As a result of the success, we are already thinking of a topic for a second webinar which we are planning for later this year. This is an important time to make every effort to stay connected, collaborate and to keep learning, so we can find ways to adapt quickly and together for profitable animal production.”

Contact Anco Brazil to find out more Anco Brazil Contact

Relevant articles

Experience with Anco FIT Poultry is growing globally

Covid 19 – A litmus test for agility in agriculture

Heat stress in sows – Better lactation performance with Anco FIT

Heat stress in sows can compromise lactation performance, as it generally reduces feed intake in sows. The gut agility activator Anco FIT was tested in sow feed for maintaining sow lactation performance despite heat stress during the summer months in Argentina.

Heat stress in sows

In sows, temperatures above 25c can cause heat stress. In lactating sows this is generally associated with reduced feed intake, resulting in reduced milk production, with the knock-on effect on piglet growth. The modern lactating sow is particularly at risk of heat stress, as it has been heavily selected for increased productivity including litter size and litter weaning weight, which comes with increased heat production.

Trial design

The trial was carried out on a commercial farm with 1500 sows in Cordoba, Argentina. The trial period was during the summer months in Argentina from February 29th to 9th of April. Temperatures ranged between 26 and 29C, with a humidity of around 75% and it was expected that sows were experiencing some degree of heat stress.

100 sows were split into 2 groups: 1) control group fed corn-soybean diet, specified to sow requirements in gestation and lactation 2) trial group fed the control diet supplemented with 1 kg of Anco FIT per ton of feed. The trial started two weeks before farrowing and ended with the weaning of pigs at 21 days of lactation.

Cross-fostering was performed within 24 h post-farrowing and litters of piglets were adjusted to 12-13 piglets within the same treatment. The average daily feed intake of the sows during lactation was recorded. Piglets received no creep feed during the lactation period.

Results

Sow feed intake in lactation was significantly increased in Anco FIT vs control sows (5.29kg/d vs 4.39 kg/d, P<0.01). Piglet mortality was significantly reduced in sows fed Anco FIT and litter weight gains significantly increased vs control (42.26kg vs 36.55kg, P<0.01).

Conclusion

Adding Anco FIT to sow diets at 1kg/t increased sow feed intake and lactation performance under summer heat stress in commercial sow farm conditions.

Related articles

Anco FIT product line now available in more than 30 countries

Heat stress in pigs – nutritional interventions that work

Don’t let summer heat stress spoil poultry appetite

Sow line differences in heat stress tolerance expressed in reproductive performance traits

Farm resilience starts in the bird – feed for adaptability

Farm resilience is emerging as a key success factor in times of great uncertainty. Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and change at its best. However, adding factors like climate change, the Covid 19 crisis and rapid changes in consumer demand into the mix exacerbates the need for the capacity of farms to adsorb shocks and adapt to change quickly to survive economically in the long-term.

Farm resilience versus farm optimization

Resilience thinking highlights that in the long run for a farm to persevere optimising resource allocation under known conditions will not be enough. Resilience is a concept that acknowledges unpredictability and emphasizes the need to enable adaptability and transformability of systems instead of optimizing them.

A farm management approach based on resilience comes up with systems that can absorb and accommodate future events in whatever unexpected form they may come. It follows that resources are allocated to strategies that allow reducing the impact of a wide variety of potential unknown events and on identifying emergent opportunities. However, fewer resources are spent on improvements in efficiency.

A crisis, such as Covid 19, may be a trigger for transformational change, since it is more likely that new alternative organizational forms will be considered.

Feeding birds for resilience

In a poultry production system, farm resilience also depends on how well birds can cope with unforeseen challenges in their feed and the environment. This is because less resilient birds will have greater fluctuations in their performance leading to a decreased cost-effectiveness of poultry feeds and a lower likelihood of reaching performance targets. With poultry feed representing around 70% of the total cost of poultry production systems it also means more variability in farm profits. Lower resilience in birds can also lead to increased susceptibility of disease which can cause further losses in the long run.

Research has shown that certain feed supplements can play a role in management strategies designed to reduce the impact of stressors on poultry well-being and performance. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry was proven to improve the capacity of broilers and laying hens to cope with stressors under commercial conditions and enhance the birds endogenous defense mechanisms to buffer stress reactions on the cellular level more efficiently in a research environment.

More resilience means less need for antibiotics

Feeding birds for adaptability to increase resilience can also help to reduce the need for antibiotics. Minimizing stress reactions, such as reduced gut integrity and oxidative stress, by nutritional means also helps to reduce the susceptibility of birds to disease that may otherwise require the need for treatments with antibiotics or the use of antibiotic growth promotors in the feed.

Relevant articles

Priming the poultry gut to deal with stressors 

Why the CAP should widen its approach to resilience 

Resilience and why it matters for farm management 

Experience with Anco FIT Poultry is growing globally 

Heat stress in pigs – nutritional interventions that work

Heat stress in pigs puts an economic strain on pig production in many countries of the world and the current climate changes have increased the prevalence and intensity of heat stress. Nutritional interventions supporting resilience mechanisms represent a practical, adaptable and cost-effective strategy to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress and improve animal productivity.

Economic losses from heat stress in pigs

Compared to other animals, pigs are more sensitive to heat stress due to their high metabolic heat production, quick fat deposition, and lack of sweat glands. Heat stress-induced economic losses result from reduced and inconsistent growth, poor sow performance and increased mortality and morbidity. In the US alone heat stress is costing pig farmers around $50 to $60 per pig each year. Regions around the world most affected by climate change are likely to see an increase in the detrimental effects of heat stress on animal production and welfare in the future. On top of that genetic selection for increased litter size and leaner phenotypes leads to an increase in thermal sensitivity in pigs, due to increased basal heat production.

Summer heat stress in sows

Sows suffer from heat stress in environmental temperatures above 25°C. Heat stress in sows has been shown to reduce feed intake, from 655 g/day to more than 2 kg per day, with subsequent negative consequences for reproduction, milk production and piglet growth. If the sow is maintained under heat stress conditions for a long period, there is a risk that the animal will overheat, which can lead to death via hyperthermia. In countries with tropical conditions such as Brazil this is very common. According to researchers in Brazil, lactating sows of some genetic lines can have up to 15% mortality during Brazilian summers due to heat stress conditions. In gestating sows there is some evidence that heat stress during pregnancy can have in utero negative effects on the offspring’s thermoregulatory capabilities.

Heat stress in fattening pigs

Research has shown that it only takes 2-6 hours of heat stress (37C and 40% humidity) to compromise feed intake and intestinal integrity in growing pigs. Studies in finishing pigs have also shown oxidative stress in the liver in response to chronic heat stress at 30 °C. The drop in feed intake in response to heat stress increases as the body weight increases in pigs. Pigs of 60-100kg raised in Brazil during the summer months have been reported to have a reduction in growth rates of around 15% compared to pigs raised during the winter.

Management interventions for heat stress in pigs

Flexible, affordable management approaches to immediately decrease heat stress susceptibility without negatively influencing traditional production traits are of great value to pig production. However, the input cost for optimal cooling technology is very costly and often too expensive for smaller producers.

Dietary supplementation and modifications are less costly easily adjustable tactics and are suitable for all production systems.

Nutrition
• Consider the thermal effect of feed and reduce fibres and crude proteins, which generate a lot of heat.
• Increase the fat content of the diet
• Feed pigs during the cooler hours of the day
• Provide pigs with unlimited access to cool and fresh drinking water
• Adapt vitamin, mineral and amino acid levels in feed to the pig requirements under heat stress

Supporting resilience mechanisms by nutritional means

Research increasing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in heat stress induced inflammation and intestinal barrier disruption paves the way to nutritional strategies to preserve the physiological performance of the gut. Many of the negative consequences that heat stress has on pig health and productivity are mediated by reduced intestinal barrier integrity, which is followed by inflammatory responses.

At the cellular level, hyperthermia leads to disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity, by affecting tight junctions. Damage to tight junctions facilitates the transfer of toxins and pathogens from the gut through the epithelial barrier, contributing to an exaggeration of inflammatory responses, which can further worsen the intestinal damage. Hyperthermia provokes the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, it can also directly impair the antioxidant defence system of the animal, which eventually leads to oxidative stress and intracellular damage. Studies in growing pigs have shown an inverse relationship between oxidative status and growth performance, whereby pigs with a higher oxidative stress status had poorer performance.

Nutritional solutions which have the capacity to preserve cellular homeostasis by enhancing cellular defense systems, thereby reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as maintain intestinal integrity are considered to be able to help protect animals against the adverse effects of heat stress.

Gut agility activators are feed supplements that were specifically formulated to enhance the resilience of animals, by supporting cellular defense systems and enabling more efficient responses to stressors including heat stress thus mitigating the impact on performance.

Sow trial with Anco FIT during summer months

A recent sow lactation trial carried out in the summer months in Argentina, showed increased feed intake (21%) and improved lactation performance in sows fed the gut agility activator Anco FIT compared to sows on a control diet.

Relevant publications

Don’t let summer heat stress spoil poultry appetite

Short-term exposure to heat stress attenuates appetite and intestinal integrity in growing pigs

Lactation in the sow during heat stress 

Beyond Heat Stress: Intestinal Integrity Disruption and Mechanism-Based Intervention Strategies

How some cows can give heat stress the cold shoulder

Don’t let summer heat stress spoil poultry appetite

Summer is just around the corner and it is time to prepare strategies to manage the impact of summer heat stress on poultry production efficiency.

Effect of heat stress on feed intake in poultry

Modern poultry is particularly sensitive to temperature-associated environmental challenges, due to their metabolic activity. Decreased feed intake in response to heat stress is the starting point for decreased body weight gain, feed efficiency, egg production and quality. Research has shown that a 12-day heat stress period in laying hens decreases feed intake by 29 g/bird, resulting in a 28.8% decrease in egg production. Others reported that for every 1◦C increase in temperature between 21◦C and 30◦C, appetite decreases by 1.5%, and for every 1◦C increase in temperature between 32◦C and 38◦C, the reduction is about 4.6% in laying hens. Studies in broilers have shown that birds reared in temperatures between (35 and 38 C) had significantly lower feed intakes and growth rates compared to birds reared in optimal temperatures.

Underlying mechanisms

There is general agreement that gut peptide hormones like Cholecystokinin (CCK) and Ghrelin have a role to play in appetite regulation in chicken. However, the role of these gut peptides in appetite regulation is not fully understood for poultry yet and there is some controversy around how their physiological roles may differ between birds and other vertebrates.

There is little information available on the underlying mechanisms for a reduction in feed intake in response to heat stress in poultry. One study investigating the effect of heat exposure on gene expression of various appetite regulating peptides in laying hens reported an upregulation of ghrelin mRNA in the hypothalamus as well as in the glandular stomach and jejunum. Suggesting that one of the pathways for the negative impact on feed intake of high ambient temperature in laying hens might be mediated by its effects on the hypothalamic and gastrointestinal ghrelin signals.

Supporting feed intake under summer heat stress

New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and hence resilience of the bird by nutritional means. They help the bird to adapt to stressors by minimizing stress reactions including reduced feed intake. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry has been shown to maintain higher feed intakes in broilers and layers compared to control animals in commercial conditions under summer heat stress. This was associated with higher weight gains and end weights

Relevant articles

#Heatawarenessday – Are your birds prepared?

Feeding cows for adaptive capacity in the transition period

The adaptive capacity of the cow determines transition success. When dairy cows fail to adapt physiologically to the demands of calving and the onset of milk production, the resulting metabolic stress leads to transition cow disorders with negative consequences for milk production, reproduction efficiency and longevity. The high prevalence of metabolic disorders and production disease around calving highlight the fact that many farm systems do not provide adequate solutions and are overstretching the adaptation capacity of their cows. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and factors exacerbating metabolic stress during transition can help to find nutritional solutions that enhance the adaptive capacity in transition dairy cows.

Transition failures

The transition period is a demanding time for dairy cows and around 30% to 50% of dairy cows are affected by some form of metabolic or infectious disease, around the time of calving. This includes milk fever ketosis, retained placenta and mastitis. A declining availability of qualified dairy staff is likely to exacerbate this, as it means that cows are receiving less individual attention to identify and respond to health issues. When disorders occur, it is a demonstration that cows have difficulties in coping with external and internal conditions, endangering their own capacity to survive. It shows that the cows are failing to adapt to changes, stressors and gaps between nutrient supply and demand.

During the transition period dairy cows must adjust metabolically to a dramatic increase in energy and nutrient requirements needed for foetal growth and onset of milk production, exceeding the amount of energy the cow receives from dietary sources. This makes the cow susceptible to a negative energy balance. A negative energy balance initiates lipid mobilization, which again leads to high concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs). Metabolism of large amounts of NEFAs to ketone bodies induces an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can eventually lead to oxidative stress in the liver of dairy cows.

Increased oxidative stress in dairy cows is recognized as an underlying factor of dysfunctional inflammatory responses and it has been linked to the occurrence of transition disorders. Oxidative stress in the liver is known to cause inflammatory damage of the liver, which impairs the metabolic function of liver cells and promotes the development of ketosis. In the mammary gland it has been associated with increased somatic cell counts in milk and the incidence of mastitis. Overall, these findings lead to the assumption that the underlying mechanisms that exacerbate metabolic stress and cause health disorders in transition dairy cows are combined effects of altered nutrient metabolism, oxidative stress and dysfunctional inflammatory responses.

Transition success

Successful adaptation avoids metabolic disorders in the transition period. Overall dairy cows are more likely to succeed in adaptation in the transition period when the gap between nutrient demands and supply is limited. However, there are also indications in the literature that even when cows had comparable energy balance, there is considerable individual variation of the adaptive ability of cows during early lactation based on metabolic and endocrine variables. Therefore, another approach is to find ways to support the cow in her ability to cope with nutritional and metabolic challenges, which would actually help the cow’s adaptability for transition success.

This amongst other things requires the identification of relevant markers that enable the measurement of achieving improved adaptability. One obvious marker for oxidative stress is the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, more recent research suggests that the oxidative stress index (OSi) predicts oxidative status more accurately. The OSi is the ratio between ROS and serum antioxidant capacity.  The researh shows that the OSi is significantly increased in dairy cows around calving, compared to levels at dry-off and at 30 days post calving. So one way of identifying improved adaptive capacity of cows in the transition period could be to measure the oxidative stress index in response to nutritional interventions.

Nutritional support for adaptive capacity

Researchers report that genetic selection for increased milk yield has decreased the adaptability of modern dairy cows. However, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms for adaptability in dairy cows is helping the development of nutritional solutions to enhance the cow’s ability to cope more efficiently with nutritional and metabolic challenges.

For instance feeding plant extracts with high antioxidative powers can help to increase the level of antioxidative enzymes and antioxidants to support the cow’s own antioxidative defense in the liver. Feeding those type of components can give the liver a better chance of fighting ROS produced in the transition period and thus minimize the negative consequences from oxidative stress on liver function. A large part of the capacity of the adaptation of ruminants to dietary challenges is allowed by the rumen, so feed supplements designed to help maintain rumen efficiency are also going to ease the transition to lactation. However, attempts to reduce the prevalence of metabolic disorders and associated production diseases should rely on continuous and comprehensive monitoring with appropriate indicators on the farm level.

Published in International Dairy Topics by Gwendolyn Jones

Relevant articles

Dairy farming resilience – 3 reasons to keep your cows agile

Labour shortage drives the need for cow resilience

Covid 19 – A Litmus test for agility in agriculture

Businesses that did not understand why agility matters to business success are waking up to just how much it matters in the face of the Covid 19 crisis. This is true for any industry including agriculture.

How do you respond to Covid 19?

Remember what happened to the Titanic in the face of an iceberg? Businesses, industries, governments and individuals all over the world are now tested for how quickly they can adapt to a major disruption and spot the opportunities. Everybody is faced with the same question, “How do we respond to Covid 19?” Individual response and the speed of it will matter to the health and economic outcome of the crisis for each of us, businesses, industries and nations all the same. Nature created the perfect storm to test personal agility levels and those of businesses.

“It is not the strongest that survive – it is the most adaptable to change”- – Charles Darwin

Organizational agility or business agility

Business agility, also known as organizational agility, is the capability of a business to be adaptive and flexible through a changing environment and to overcome challenges as they surface with minimal impact to the business. Times of crisis tells businesses just how agile they are. As change is happening so fast, companies need to be able to do these things very quickly to optimize operations for peak performance, exploit opportunities and mitigate risks. Agility is all about how we as individuals and organizations respond to challenges and at what speed, which will ultimately determine the impact the challenge will have on us and on organizations.

“Research shows that in a volatile and uncertain world agility separates the best from the rest.” – Krupp (2020)

In the current crisis leaders must be highly agile to break free of old mental models and politics or business as usual. They need to be able to learn and adapt fast.  Agile leaders demonstrate four skills in times of crisis: adaptability, resilience, learning, and foresight:

Adaptability – Shifting priorities quickly due to rapidly changing external and internal dynamics
Resilience: Bouncing back from setbacks and failure
Learning: Testing assumptions, failing fast, and continuously iterating in real time
Foresight: Anticipating and being prepared to pivot with market changes

Agility and adaptability are critical to farming

Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and changes at its best. Therefore, successful farming relies on the producer’s or farmer’s capacity to respond to changing markets, environmental conditions and consumer preferences. So, the future of farming lies in an agile production system and this has only been exacerbated by the Covid 19 crisis. The most sustainable thing to do is focus on those things over which a farm has direct control. Of those the most critical is agility, which enables the producer to continuously adjust what he does to take advantage of external factors or at least reduce the potential negative impact on the business.

Our food production system needs resilience in the face of a volatile trade environment and climate change. Again, this is why speed is of the essence and agility matters in agriculture.

Relevant articles

From Blame to gain: Leading with agility in a crisis 
Dairy farming resilience – 3 reasons to keep your cows agile
Keep agile keep farming podcast 
Gut agility activator – Anco FIT product line

Dairy farming resilience – 3 reasons to keep your cows agile

The competitive environment for dairy farming requires farm management strategies for resilient production systems that can recover from or adapt to changes in environmental, social or economic conditions. There is probably no time like the current Covid 19 crisis that proves just how important resilience is for production systems.

Resilience applies to the farm, but also to individual animals. Several research programs in different parts of the world are investigating ways of genetically improving resilience in dairy cows. Resilience in the cow is determined by her adaptive capacity, which is the mechanism of the cow that empowers her to cope with internal or external disturbances, stressors or with changes in the environment.

Here are the top reasons for finding ways to Improve the adaptive capacity In dairy cows or In other words to keep dairy cows agile.

1) Consistent milk productivity and quality

Common stress reactions to stressors in the feed and in the environment, are oxidative stress, inflammation at the cellular level, shifts in rumen efficiency and reduction in feed intake. They will all lead to wasted energy and increased maintenance energy or a reduction in energy intake, which again will have consequences for milk yield and quality. Improving the adaptive capacity of dairy cows, will help to reduce the stress reactions In response to challenges and stressors and hence the Impact they can have on milk production and quality. As a result there are less fluctuations and less deviations from expected milk productivity and quality, which also means a more stable Income from cows.

2) Transition management in dairy farming

The transition period is a demanding time for dairy cows and when they fail to adapt physiologically to the demands of calving and the onset of milk production, the resulting metabolic stress leads to transition cow disorders with negative consequences for milk production, reproduction efficiency and longevity. Improving the adaptive capacity in dairy cows can enable the dairy cow to weather the transition period more successfully.

3) Shortages in qualified labour for dairy farming

One of the biggest pain points of dairy farms today is attracting skilled labour. Farmers are finding it difficult to get people to work on farms. It is even more difficult to source domestic labour and many dairy farmers are relying on foreign workers within their workforce. So the Covid 19 crisis and new immigration laws can exacerbate the shortage in qualified labour on dairy farms. A shortage in skilled labour means that caring for cow health and optimal performance becomes more challenging. One solution to this is to breed and manage for resilient cows that are easier to manage. Feeding for improved adaptive capacity to Increase resilience In dairy cows can make a difference to the amount of care a cow requires and thus to the amount of labour needed on the farm.

Nutritional solutions

New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and keep animals agile by nutritional means for improved resilience.

The gut agility activator Anco FIT helps the cow to adapt to nutritional and environmental challenges more efficiently by minimising stress reactions such as oxidative stress and reduced feed intake, that would otherwise impact performance and wellbeing of the cow. Heat stress, transition period and mycotoxins are known factors which normally lead to increased oxidative stress and or a reduction in feed intake.

Keep yourself and your cows agile

The safest bet to keep yourself and your cows in the game in the face of unpredictability and change is to support and manage the adaptive capacity of your cows and of yourself. In other words, agility or the ability to adapt to challenges and change is key to longer term success. Staying open to continuous learning and new technologies will help to keep yourself agile. Rethinking how we breed and feed cows to foster resilience will keep cows agile. And there are already great technologies out there that can help monitor the progress we make in this.

Related articles

Labour shortage drives the need for cow resilience to optimize performance

Feeding cows for adaptive capacity in the transition period

How cows can give heat stress the cold shoulder

Covid 19 – A litmus test for agility in agriculture

How are egg prices and egg producers responding to Covid 19

Egg prices increased dramatically as consumers started to change their behaviour and habits with the Covid 19 outbreak.

Consumers had been stockpiling basic food items including milk, eggs and bread to prepare for potential quarantines. But as lockdowns were introduced and people had to stay at home actual consumption increased. People are no longer eating out, so the demand for eggs is shifting from the foodservice sector to the retail channel, as consumers are cooking more meals at home. There is also an increase in home-baking activities as some are taking to stress-baking to cope with isolation and others bake to keep their kids entertained and combat boredom. Egg consumption also increased to replace more expensive forms of protein in households that are seeing a decline in their income as a result of Covid 19 job losses.

As a result retail stores are struggling to meet the demand and then there is Easter just around the corner. On top of concerns for not being able to meet demand the poultry industry in the US is concerned that the ongoing labour shortage could be exacerbated due to the impact of the Covid 19 crisis.

How are egg producers responding

Egg producers are uncertain of how long the impact of the virus on the egg market will last, so are unlikely to increase the number of hens in response to the increased demand for eggs caused by Covid 19. However, some egg producers aim to keep hens longer than they normally would to boost the number of eggs produced and meet demand. They are converting food service lines into retail where possible to meet the changing consumer demand.

Like in many other industries Covid 19 may also be a catalyst to digitization of operations, meaning that egg producers could adopt AI and IoT based solutions faster than they would otherwise.

This could include tools that enable farm managers to share data within the production team, while reducing the amount of time needed to be spent in face-to-face interactions, which can help make better decisions faster but also reduce the risk of spreading the virus. AI in the form of robots, which reduce floor egg incidence and the need for human intervention. IoT devices and species specific sensors for the poultry house can be used to capture data on bird weight, light levels, temperature, water usage, ammonia levels, which not only allows real-time observation at all times to manage chicken houses remotely, but also provides the opportunity for predictive modelling. For example it allows producers to predict when pullets reach their target weight and help farmers make corrections in management as needed.

Advantage of resilience in laying hens

Resilience in animals has been defined as the capacity of an animal to be minimally affected by disturbances or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a disturbance. Breeding for resilience in laying hen is being proposed as a strategy to obtain trouble-free hens which are easy-to-manage and enjoy greater health. This again would mean less need for human interventions, with less fluctuations in hen performance and greater laying persistence in the flock. So more resilient laying hens would also mean an advantage to cope with some of the challenges on managing flocks imposed by Covid 19. There is also the possibility to support resilience in laying hens by nutritional means and feeding for adaptive capacity.

Related articles

Resilience – economic value in animal production