On a sometimes frosty farm in Hamilton stand the world's leading heat-tolerant cattle.

A bull named Slick Grazer was the first, and was a good performer until his untimely demise at 4 years old after an unfortunate incident with his penis and a fence.

Heat-tolerant cattle have been the work of Dairy Solutionz directors and friends Derek Fairweather and Paul Bardoul.

The cattle are ideal for hot places such as Australia, Asia, South America, Middle East, America. The cattle have a resting temperature 1C cooler than standard breeds.

The discovery has been about 11 years in the making. It was on a trip to a barren, desert-type farm in Venezuela, when the pair were working for Innovation Park, Hamilton, where they noticed something unusual.

"We went to one particular farm, that looked like the desert, in the middle of this cactus-covered, arid, flood-irrigated oasis and in that oasis were some pretty interesting cows," Fairweather said.

"It was hot, humid and they were doing pretty good [milking 25 litres] and that's pretty good volume for something that's exposed to a lot of heat stress. To do 25 litres is a good amount of milk."

What they also found interesting was that although the herd had trees to sit under - they opted to sit in the sun.

"With all that heat stress going on, they were obviously quite comfortable. We thought 'there's something interesting about that cow'. We didn't know what we were really looking at but saw the behaviour and thought there was something significant about that animal," Fairweather said.

The cow was a native Venezuelan breed called Carora. The following year Fairweather and Bardoul spied another cow, with a different breed composition, producing similar litres in hot conditions in Costa Rica.

New Zealand has five million dairy cows. A further 250 million cows live in tropical conditions. Fairweather said being able to tap into that tropical market would bring endless opportunities.

A year after that 2006 trip, they used semen from Australia and America and started breeding.

"We didn't muck around. We saw something and we did something about it. A lot of people have an idea but don't do anything."

That's when foundation bull Slick Grazer came along.

"Our foundation bull has given us enormous confidence in the whole blood line. We've got six years milking with the breed."

Unfortunately Slick Grazer's breeding days are over after he broke his penis jumping a fence to chase heifers.

One of Dairy Solutionz exemplar Kiwipole cow. All of the Dams of the three bulls released to the United States earlier this year have exceeded 7000 liters in a lactation. Photo/Derek Fairweather
One of Dairy Solutionz exemplar Kiwipole cow. All of the Dams of the three bulls released to the United States earlier this year have exceeded 7000 liters in a lactation. Photo/Derek Fairweather

"He was becoming a ratbag and worked out how to open gates - he would just push them off their hinges and off he'd go."

Now the company has four blood lines of the heat-tolerant breed to work with for various farming systems.

They worked with big cattle farmers in the United States, but also with aid organisations who buy the semen for farmers in less productive countries, including Ethiopia.

They also worked with farmers Pakistan, Ecuador, Venezuela, Philippines and Malaysia.

"Anywhere through the equatorial tropics zone is where these genetics are going, so it's a pretty broad bunch of opportunities."

This year, the company launched its semen in the United States.

The mothers of the bulls just released to the States are now producing 7000 litres of milk a year, compared to the New Zealand average of 4500 litres.

"What we're proving is the genetic potential of these cows is significant. It's the first time in a long time that a new breed of animal has hit the market that actually has fundamental science behind it."

The company will be one of nearly 80 entrants in this year's Fieldays Innovations section. Fairweather said they weren't going to sell anything, but were showing what can be done if you run with an idea.

Fairweather said the goal is to be the company with the number one tropical bulls, proven by data, in the world.

VIRTUAL REALITY ON-FARM TRAINING

Get a virtual look inside a cow shed, or perhaps try driving a forklift. Hamilton 3D animation and video production company, Pepper Creative, is showing off its prototypes at this year's Fieldays.

Advertisement

Company director Lance Bauerfeind said the cow shed virtual reality tour focuses on how to use an automated machine, which flushes out the pipes used in the milking system.

"It's demonstrating that people can go inside a cow shed and practice programming an automated washing machine."

He said virtual reality offered a more practical way for technicians to practice and learn as they can see the water moving through and cleaning the pipes after milking.

Visitors can also use virtual reality training to learn to drive a forklift.

HEALING FOOT INFECTION - ONE STEP AT A TIME

Farm Medix's Dermashield - a high tech band run by ions which cures and prevents infections in cow's feet. Photo/Farm Medix
Farm Medix's Dermashield - a high tech band run by ions which cures and prevents infections in cow's feet. Photo/Farm Medix

Auckland's Farm Medix have come up with an invention to cure foot infections in cows: simply wrapping a bracelet around its ankle. It's almost too simple to be true. But co-director Natasha Maguire says feedback from customers has been outstanding.

One Waikato farmer said a cow was usually out for months with a foot infection, which could lead to lameness and death. However, after using the Dermashield it had gone just after 10 days.

Maguire says Dermashield is a high-tech velcro band that wraps around a cow's ankle once there was a sign of infection.

"It prevents and treats infections associated with lameness. Lameness is a debilitating condition. By the time the problem is bad, the cow is in a bad state.

"It's not an antibiotic but it creates like a force-field around the cow's hoof that keeps all the germs away from the wound and allows it to heal."

The band is powered by an "ionic force field" that keeps the bugs away.

"It decays at a calculated rate. An inhibitory ion stops bacteria growing in that zone. It's providing ions all the time in that area so that the cow has a zone around her hoof."

QUADBIKE SAFETY

Ride Safe's prototype quad bike safety helmet - if it's not worn properly the wiring system will ensure the quad bike won't start. Photo/ Quinn Bowie
Ride Safe's prototype quad bike safety helmet - if it's not worn properly the wiring system will ensure the quad bike won't start. Photo/ Quinn Bowie

A team of St Paul's Collegiate pupils have come up with a quad bike helmet that, unless worn correctly, won't let the bike start.

Team leader Quinn Bowie, 17, said the prototype had been a couple of months in the making and was one of two St Paul's projects featuring at Fieldays.

Quinn says the helmet will be hard-wired but the end product will have a wireless connection.

"There's going to be a circuit throughout the helmet and it will run through the clip and there will be pressure or heat sensors on the top of the helmet and at the back. If all of these sensors are not set right the circuit won't be complete. The circuit's going to be linked to the kill switch on the quad bike, disabling the quad bike until the helmet's on.

"So you can't use the motorbike if you haven't got your helmet on."

Ride Safe hope to eventually sell their helmet into other industries including construction or those using machinery.