Dollars and Sense: Less Crowding Yields Higher Intakes

September 30, 2015 09:45 AM
Dollars and Sense: Less Crowding Yields Higher Intakes


Shelly Dickinson
Loveland, Colo.

Mountain View Farm is a fourth-generation dairy farm, milking 2,500 cows with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains.


At Mountain View Farm, we know what you know: cow comfort is a top priority.  Of course, that means much more than how cows are bedded and stalled.

Cow comfort starts every morning with a good, healthy ration. Each morning we pick up all of the leftover feed from the previous day and put out new fresh feed.  We make sure the feed is plentiful and constantly accessible.  To keep feed close, we push it up eight times a day.

We’re also trying something new for us. Until recently we kept our pens at capacity of 200-head and milked as many cows as we could through the barn. At one point last year, we were milking 3,200 cows through the parlor. When we opened our other dairy, however, it gave us the opportunity to balance cows better. 

Now we keep our pens at 180 head and milk 2,400 to 2,500 cows at Mountain View Farm. The change has made all the difference - milk jumped, cow health improved, and intake went through the roof.  I’m so pleased that our cows are much more comfortable.

dickinson_pricesMaking a commitment to cow comfort also means paying attention to how we move and treat cows whenever we are with them. We aim for quiet, relaxed movement. This of course limits injuries to both animals and people.

Finally, we have several types of pens: Open lots, covered free stalls, and open free stalls. Open free stalls are harrowed daily. We bed all of our free stalls with compost, and when weather hits we bed with straw and corn stalks. Our close up pen is bedded with straw.

Our maternity pens are cleaned and bedded weekly or more often if needed.  Our fresh pens have cow brushes in them.  I think it gives some comfort to the cows - and to me as I see them enjoying the brushes running across their backs.

I know dairy farmers care so much about their cows, and don't take cow comfort for granted. I feel very fortunate that we are able to create this environment for them.

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