DeGroot is a third-generation California dairy producer whose San Joaquin Valley operation milks 2,400 cows.
**Extended comments highlighted in blue.
Cow comfort is a top priority on our dairy. It doesn’t matter how well we think we’re doing with cow comfort; there’s always room to improve. It’s not just a system or protocol we put in place and then leave alone. We’re always fine-tuning our system to make it better. There are many different factors that contribute to cow comfort on our farm.
One main focus is to provide a dry, clean place that cows want to lay in. You can have dry bedding, but if there isn’t enough in the stall, cows won’t be comfortable. We compost separated and corral manure and use this year-round as bedding in the freestalls as well as in the open corrals.
Wet bedding is hand-raked daily (six days per week) out of the freestalls. Stalls are also groomed daily with a tractor-mounted rake. Dry manure is added once a week.
More bedding is required during winter months when rain limits the use of exercise lots. We use dry bedding under the shades in our open corrals year-round also. During the winter months, bedding is scraped out three times per week and replaced with dry manure.
During the summer, we scrape bedding out from under shades to dry in the corral, and we scrape dry manure from the corral back under the shades twice per week. We measure cow comfort in our freestalls by the amount of cows that are not eating, drinking or lying down--our goal is less than 10%.
During the summer months, the use of fans and soakers is a key factor in keeping our animals comfortable.