VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and operated dairy milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.
A lot has been written in the past few years about cow comfort, and for good reason. We believe it is extremely important to do the best we can for our hard-working cows—it is the right thing to do for the animal and it makes financial sense to improve cow environments.
Over the years, we have continued to work on improving cow comfort. We have re-grooved slick concrete to provide solid footing. In other places, such as the holding area, we installed rubber flooring. Freestalls have been adjusted to be 48" wide to better accommodate larger animals. Last year, we extended all barns to reduce stocking density to 100% on lactating groups, and 70% to 90% on pre- and post-fresh groups.
We always seem to be working on improving ventilation by putting in more fans and soakers in specific areas. On our six-row barns, we have a lot of sun exposure on the outside rows of beds, so we installed a shade curtain that we can let down in the summer and roll up during the winter months.
We have always bedded with clean sand and still do today. Beds get hand-raked three times a day, and new sand gets added weekly. Maybe sometime in the future we may look at alternative ways of bedding, but we have been extremely impressed with locomotion and hoof health of the cows, as well as milk quality, using clean sand. It is great for the cow but sometimes can be a headache for the dairy farmer.
There are many aspects to cow comfort, and I don’t think we will ever be done improving. But the principle is really quite simple: Cows that are healthy and housed in a comfortable environment produce more milk and generally live healthier, longer lives. I think we can all agree this is a win-win.
VanderMade’s most recent prices
Milk $20.50 (3.7 bf, 3.1 prt)
Cull cows (dressed) $1.53/lb.
Springing heifers $1,700/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $260/ton
Ground corn $225/ton