|Bedded packs provide a stress-free environment for transition cows.
Veterinarian Joep Driessen is a big advocate of bedded packs or compost barns for dry cows and transition cows for three weeks before and after calving, which he dubs "the stress-free calving line.”
The packs allow lame cows to recover and ensure that cows get adequate lying time on soft surfaces. And by keeping the number of cows low, it provides a stress-free environment through the most stressful time of a cow's life: at calving.
Small groups also ensure that fresh cows can be milked quickly and returned quickly to feed and soft bedding. "In a double-12 parlor, for example, a group of 25 fresh cows can be milked in 20 minutes and be back on the bedded pack,” Driessen says.
This is far preferable to forcing fresh cows into larger groups of 100 or more cows. Milking times in these groups can easily stretch beyond an hour. If you are milking 3X, that means fresh cows are forced to stand on concrete three to six hours per day and be away from feed, water and beds for that time as well.
"All farms can't use bedded packs,” Driessen says. "But if they can, I recommend that 10% to 20% of the cows in the herd through the transition period be housed on them.
"Farmers that have started using bedded packs come back a few months later and ask me, ‘Where are all the sick cows?' They really work that well,” he says.