Australia’s first clear-roofed deep-litter cow shelter has proven its worth during its first year of operation, helping a south-west Victorian dairy farm to better pasture, production and cow health outcomes.
The 48.6x81m shelter built on Simon and Pep Rea’s Panmure farm by Dairy Shelters Australia, has eased pressure on pastures during a wet winter, improved feeding efficiency and led to reduced mastitis and lameness in the herd.
Dairyfarmers can see the shelter and its positive results first hand at an open day on Tuesday, August 9.
Mr Rea said the shelter had proved its worth in the wet conditions.
“Since the start of May we’ve had cattle in there the whole time; it’s been under more pressure than anticipated but it’s holding up very well,” he said.
“There were 500 in there last night when the weather was really bad, it’s much better for cow comfort.”
The shelter allowed the Reas to develop a good wedge of home-grown feed and improve feeding efficiency with use of a feedpad.
“We’ve been reducing our stocking rates on paddocks, particularly on wet days,” Mr Rea said.
“That has meant improved pasture cover and reduced pugging in the paddocks.”
The shelter has led to positive health outcomes for the cows.
Mr Rea has seen fewer cows with lameness and the farm’s mastitis levels have improved significantly, with an average Bulk Milk Cell Count BMCC reading of 83,000 for July compared with 97,000 for the same time last year.
The June BMCC differential was even more pronounced, reducing from 132,000 in 2015 to 91,000 this year, and there was a similar drop from 135,000 to 105,000 in the May comparison.
“That’s the best we’ve achieved,” Mr Rea said.
The farm’s production was up 5 per cent for 2015-16, a good result considering the difficult seasonal conditions, and so far this it’s up a further 10 per cent in July.
“I made a decision in late autumn not to push ahead with extra cow numbers this season because of the seasonal and industry outlook,” Mr Rea said.
“The system allowed us to be flexible and still keep up production, but when things turn around we’ll be able to increase our stocking rate.”
The shelter has been used by dry cows and milkers and also for calf rearing.
The results of a nutrient analysis of bedding in the shelter will be available at the open day.
“We’re doing a cost and nutrient benefit analysis for using the bedding to fertilise the farm,” Mr Rea said.
“There are a lot of nutrients tied up in the bedding and when it comes time to replace it we hope it will fertilise the farm on a cost-neutral basis with the new woodchips replacing paid fertiliser.”
A demonstration at the open day will show the release of heat when the bedding is turned.
“It’s heating up and seems to be sterilising itself; we’re more than happy with the way it’s going,” Mr Rea said.
Mr Rea said the shelter would be invaluable for farmers struggling with wet conditions across southern Australia.
“It’s become a multi-purpose venue for us and we’re finding new ways to use it all the time.”
Mr and Mrs Rea joined with local vet David Colson and his wife Sue-Ellen to launch Dairy Shelters Australia which is customising New Zealand-made Redpath clear-roofed, deep-litter shelters for the Australian dairy industry.
They are made from a flexible polythene membrane and the deep woodchip floor can be easily cleaned using a simple scarifying process.
The shelters can be built at any size to meet farmer needs.
They also feature vents and retractable sun shades to protect cows during heatwaves.
Cows can move freely and feeding can be arranged under the cover or nearby.
Dairy Shelters Australia will host the open day at the Rea farm at 89 Naringal-Panmure Road, Panmure, Vic, on Tuesday, August 9 from 11am.
Lunch will be provided and people can RSVP by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org .au or 0427 676343.
More information can be found at www.dairysheltersaustralia.com.auwww.dairysheltersaustralia.com.au or http://www.google.com.au.