Gertie and Geert van den Goor
Transplants from the Netherlands, the Van den Goors milk 3,000 cows at their Goma Dairy and were named 2014 Dairy Farmers of the Year by Michigan State University.
Many things play a role in cow comfort, but let’s narrow it down to a few.
The first thing that comes to my mind thinking about cow comfort is bedding--sand bedding to be precise. When we bought the dairy farm, the freestalls had mattresses in it. We used those with sawdust, with lime, with a combination of both but the cows never seemed to be comfortable.
So we ripped the mattresses out, took out the concrete, poured new curbs and added tons of sand. Within a week, the cows were up seven pounds in production. And it did not take long before improving feet and leg health started to show.
Since then, every new barn that we built has sand bedding in it. Last week at the county fair, there were dairy cows that came out of a sand barn and out of a non-sand barn. Just by looking at them, you could see a big difference in leg health.
The size of the free stalls is important, too. Stalls are 48” wide and 7.5’ long. That seems to work pretty well for the very uniform size of cows that we have.
In the milking parlor, for the past few years, we have mats on the platform where the cows turn. Looking back, that is something we should have done right away when the new parlor was built and when the new cement was hard on cows’ feet.
Fans and sprinklers are important during hot weather. On hot days, you see the cows come up to the feed alley when the sprinklers kick in to cool down and they stay to eat. The holding pen has sprinklers, to,o where the cows are being soaked before coming into the parlor.
As last, I think stocking density also plays a big part in cow comfort.
We try not to overcrowd the pens too much. For milk cows we are around the 115%, fresh cows 80%, dry cows 100% and pre-fresh cows between the 80% and 100%.