It's pretty much a no-brainer: A comfortable cow is a happy, productive cow.
Marcia Endres, a dairy specialist with the University of Minnesota, offers these tips to keep cows happy:
- Limit pen moves to minimize social stress. A University of British Columbia study shows feed bunk displacements rose to 25 times the day a cow was moved compared to 10 times per day before regrouping. Milk production dropped 8 lb./cow/day the day of regrouping.
- Provide 3' of bunk space for transition cows. Cows that must compete for bunk access often eat fewer, but larger, meals. This could potentially affect the composition of the diet consumed or cause digestive upsets.
- Start using sprinklers to cool cows at 70¢ªF. Wisconsin research shows cows stand more and lie in freestalls less when the temperature-humidity index reaches 68.
- Limit time away from the pen for milking to four hours per day.
- Ensure that each cow visits the hoof trimmer at least once per year.
- Provide rubber flooring on walking lanes and in the holding pen.
- Provide lame cows access to pasture. Another British Columbia study shows that for every week cows are kept on pasture, lameness scores improve 0.22 on a 1 to 5 scale.
- Do not use brisket boards in freestalls that are deep-bedded with sand. In freestalls that are bedded with other materials or equipped with mattresses, limit brisket board height to 4".
- Keep bedding dry. If given a choice, 50% of cows never use wet stalls.
- Keep pen stocking densities to 120% or less in two-row freestall pens.
More details on cow comfort (4-State Nutrition Proceedings) Scroll to page 60.