FARM-Friendly Freestalls

Published on: 13:22PM Oct 04, 2010

To make our cow comfort easier, we have built freestall barns for our cows. We believe in their effectiveness 100% of the way. We’re also starting the process to implement the FARM Program at our dairy.

Brian Medeiros125x125
Medeiros and his parents own and operate a 2,300-cow herd in the San Joaquin Valley.
By Brian Medeiros, Hanford, Calif.
Cow comfort is one of the most important goals and jobs here at our dairy. As many of us know, if cows are not comfortable and happy, then we as dairyman are not happy. Our cow comfort is also directly related to the milk in the bulk tank, and when that suffers, the rest of the farm suffers.  
To make our cow comfort easier, we have built freestall barns for our cows. And we believe in their effectiveness 100% of the way. At Medeiros & Son Dairy, we are starting the process of implementing the FARM Program as well as looking into low stress cattle management techniques.
Most importantly, we have the freestalls to insure that our cows have the exact same bed to lie in year-round. We take special care to maintain them on a set schedule. The beds are racked six days a week and filled once a week. Our bedding is composed of sundried and composted separator manure, with a portion of it being summer corral scrapings. Our goal is to fill the beds with only the driest material possible, which helps us maintain a very low environmental mastitis rate. Fortunately, we have been successful.
We also have rubber matting running the full distance from the milk parlor barn to the farthest headstall in the freestall barn. It is always interesting to watch the cows as the leave the barn and walk in single-file fashion back to their barns.
In addition to our freestall barns, we are also in the process of implementing the FARM program on our dairy to insure that we have the best animal well-being procedures possible for the cows. In addition to our own desire to start the program, our co-op is looking for the opportunity to assure our consumers that we as farmers are doing the best job possible. The program will make it much easier on an employee-training basis as well.
Low-stress cow management is another tool that we are looking to take advantage of on our farm for assisting in the care and comfort of our cows. Granted, we try our hardest to use the quietest and calmest voices when we are working our cows. But stress and emotions can sometimes get the best of you. By implementing a low stress protocol and procedure, we are hoping to imbed in ourselves and our employees the proper and most desirable type of communication skills to use with our cows.  
Cow comfort is one of the most important factors to operating a successful dairy herd. We believe that we have a farm that allows us to make sure that our cows are as comfortable as they can possibly be.