Clovis and Portales, N.M.
The Schaaps manage four dairies, including an organic operation, and milk 5,500 cows. They’re also partners in a cheese factory.
Cow comfort is one aspect of dairying that, if not taken seriously, should be. So many of the day-to-day problems and issues that we all encounter on our dairies can be minimized by paying attention to and addressing the comfort of our animals.
When many of us think of cow comfort, we tend to concentrate on manure management, freestall bedding or cow cooling. These issues are definitely important. Additionally, we feel that feeding times; reproductive management, as it relates to the amount of time waiting to get bred; milking times and minimizing the movement of cows between strings are all of equal importance to the day-to-day well-being of our herd.
We also try to ensure that the feed ration that’s presented to the cows is palatable and that fresh feed is available as they exit the barn from milking, especially to the high-producing cows. It is important that this guideline is followed. In my experience, if feeding schedules are aligned to ensure that the high-producing and fresh cows are fed this way, the overall production and cow comfort for these animals will be maximized.
In addition, we try to schedule milking times that will allow the highest producing cows to be milked during the coolest part of the day. The summertime can be hot here, especially in the late afternoon. Therefore, we try to milk the lower end of the herd during those hours and the high and fresh in the early afternoon.
We try to minimize the time that the cows are standing in lock-ups waiting to be bred. The times you allocate for feeding, milking times and breeding will increase cow comfort and hopefully enhance your bottom line.
Lastly, we try to minimize the amount of movement between strings, both for reproductive and feeding purposes. Cows are social beings, and once they are placed in a string, moving them will only cause them to be disoriented in their new surroundings. This forces them to establish a new "pecking" order and, in turn, lose milk and reproductive efficiency overall.
Another area of concern is how employees handle the cows. We do not allow employees to yell during milking time or carry any whips, sticks or any kind of device that could threaten or spook our cows. We also want employees to handle cows gently while in the parlor getting prepared for milk let-down. Cows always prefer a calm atmosphere and respond to let-down quicker. Doing these things helps reduce downer cows in the milking center and leads to faster milking times.
Schaap’s most recent prices
$17.85 (3.37 bf, 3.02 prt)
Alfalfa hay (milk cow)