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More Trees Please

Trees play such a major role in our well being, for both nutrition and shelter.  One of the major benefits of trees is precious shade and shelter.

Climate change is upon us.  During summer in the barren fields, we cows suffer under the fierce sun glaring down through the ozone depleted skies.

On searing hot days you will see us desperate for any piece of shade we can find - shade that typically doesn't exist especially in intensive farming systems.

Trees are my umbrella and my parasol.

How trees and plants are beneficial to cow wellbeing

All animals need shade and shelter - preferably natural shade like trees and hedges.  Cows need shelter from weather extremes, especially heat, and also from mud.  On a wet stormy day or in searing heat we look to trees for protection.  Cows can experience heat stress at much lower temperatures than humans and prefer temperatures around 20 degrees C.

However an interesting thing to note is there are trees that are poisonous to us like Pine and Macrocarpa.  Find out more here

Poisonous plants to cows

Cattle get rid of heat primarily through a combination of an evaporation of their breath and from sweat.

Providing shelter and shade from direct sun, reduces the extra heat load they take on (by up to 50 per cent). Heat stress and exhaustion should not occur if cattle are able to find the necessary shade, where they can rest during the hottest part of the day.

Calves and pregnant cattle are more at risk of heat stress due to their lower heat threshold.

In hot conditions where shade is available, cattle prefer to rest during the day and will spend the cooler parts of the day grazing.

If no trees are available, cattle will camp next to water (if available) such as dams or creeks during the day and feed at night. Cattle prefer shade over water in hot conditions and will spend more time resting and less time chewing their cud as the temperature increases.

Animals at highest risk of heat stress include:

  • over fat stock

  • young animals

  • dark coloured animals

  • high producing dairy cows

  • sick animals or animals that have previous history of respiratory disease.

Often their appetite is reduced during extreme heat and can result in decreased daily weight gains. Provision of a variety of foods to eat and plenty of shelter during periods of hot weather will reduce the heat load of the animals . 

Research into dairy cattle production under heat stress demonstrates how essential shade and shelter improves the welfare of cows.

Trees are also beneficial to our living standards

The provision of shelter allows cows to better cope with the varying climatic extremes that can occur throughout the year and with climate change.  Without shelter cows need to put more energy into normal functioning.  During winter, farms without trees are more likely to end up in a muddy state.  It's very important for cows to lie down for up to 12 hours a day. Intensive farms means there are more animals per paddock. In intensive winter grazing scenarios, stocking density can be as high as two cows per m2.  That means there isn't necessary freedom to move, or dry places to lie, so cows have to rest- and sometimes give birth in mud.

This is a most inciteful and interesting piece of research by Dr Christine Jones

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