|Four 25-cow mature cow groups are housed to the left of the feed alley. A fifth group and an 80-stall heifer group, along with calving pens, are situated to the right.
The new transition barn at Badger Pride Dairy has it all:
- 54" wide freestalls with no brisket boards for mature, pregnant cows.
- 30" of bunk space per cow throughout.
- Twenty-five stall pens for mature cows that enable stable social groups.
- Drover lanes that facilitate one-person cow handling and allow cows to be moved at any time without disruption.
- Big, roomy calving pens with in-floor heat and rubber matting.
Lorin Berge and son Matt, of Valders, Wis., started moving dry cows into the naturally ventilated, 205-cow barn last Thanksgiving. Since then, fresh cow problems have dropped dramatically.
"The top, aggressive cows will always do well, no matter what kind of facilities you have for dry cows,” Lorin says. "But the bottom end usually struggles. With the new barn, metabolic issues with fresh cows have really subsided. The difference has been remarkable.”
Displaced abomasums have dropped off markedly, he adds, and milk fevers are rare—maybe one case occurs everymonth or two.
Prior to building the barn, the Berges used a one-pen system for all dry cows and springing heifers. With 700 cows milking, that group easily exceeded 100 animals. And with cows being dried off weekly and new cows being constantly added, the
social turmoil never ended.
The new barn features five 25-cow pens for mature cows. The Berges use a 45-day dry period, with 10 to 20 cows being dried off each week.
Each 25-cow pen is loaded within two weeks, and that group of animals remains in the pen for the duration of the dry period. The goal is to add to that cohort of cows and have the pen full by 28 days prior to calving, allowing for a full month of social stability for the group, Lorin says.
As cows from the group start to calve, they are moved to one of four calving pens. A drover's lane on the outside of the building allows animals to be moved without disrupting the other pens. Once calved out, they're moved down the hill to the main milking facility, where they're housed in the fresh-cow group.
The dry-cow group is then allowed to dwindle to one or two cows without any animals being added. Once the group gets down to an individual cow or two, those cows are moved to the group closest to calving.
"We regroup these last two in a pen because one or two cows by themselves are more stressed by being alone,” Lorin says.
- October 2009