For Cows, The Place To Be

September 23, 2010 11:49 AM

RonGibson 125x125Ron Gibson 

West Weber, Utah

Gibson milks 1,400 cows at his Green Acres family dairy near Ogden.


August prices

(3.67% bf, 3.02% prt) $14.24/cwt.

Cull cows

Springing heifers $1,400/head

Alfalfa hay


Soy Best

Steam flaked corn

“Green Acres is the place to be…” Sound familiar? At Gibson’s Green Acres, we want our cows to be “singing” praises over where they live and how they are treated. We have found that comfortable cows are productive cows.
In a region with extremes in the weather, consistency in four main areas is key to optimizing our herd’s comfort:

Housing. I believe that a key factor in cow comfort is where the cow spends most of her day. Our freestalls are 48" wide and 8' long, with wide open fronts. This design allows cows to enter and leave comfortably. We bed stalls with a very fine sand, raked twice a day to keep them fresh and clean. This raking also ensures that there are no holes in the bedding. Fresh sand is added weekly.

Ultimately we have what we call the “knee rule” in our freestalls: You should be able to stand in the stall and drop to your knees without your knees getting wet or without it hurting. Our cows are never found lying down outside the stalls. Optimum cow comfort leads to clean cows, which leads to quality milk.

Cow cooling. Heat stress sometimes seems like a huge hurdle to overcome. However, on our dairy we have found a simple way to reduce heat stress. By installing sprinklers and fans in our holding pen and more fans in the parlor, both production and reproduction have
increased during the summer months.

Proper hoof care. Hoof care is vital to cow comfort. All of our cow pushers fill out daily shift reports. The reports help identify cows with hoof problems. Employees are trained to respond immediately to these reports, thereby solving small problems before a cow becomes lame.

Proper training for our hoof care team is essential. Our goal is to have a 90% cure rate the first time through the chute. Random locomotion scores are recorded monthly to ensure we are having success with our program. A lame cow will never be comfortable or productive.

Overcrowding. How many of us like to go to a restaurant and have a wait time of one hour? We need to keep this in mind when we are thinking about our cows. Stocking density is a key component to cow comfort. Every one of our corrals has room for at least one bed for every animal. We stock so there are 10% more headlocks than animals.

This becomes even more important in the fresh pens and close-up pens. In these pens, we understock by at least 20%. These animals have to be able to eat and rest.

Frequently, we have the opportunity to share with our city neighbors a small glimpse of life on a dairy farm. We enjoy showing them how well cared for our cows are. We hope they can hear our cows sing, “Farm living is the life for me.”

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