I receive many newpapers, publications and magazines to read and keep informed about the ever changing Insurance and Agribusiness industries. Lately, I have constantly come across articles about Cow Comfort from the Lancaster Farming (Southern edition), Country Folks Mid- Atlantic edition, posts on social media from extension offices or farmers themselves, and more.
Cow Comfort isn’t just about better treatment of livestock, but also relates to higher productions. Cow Comfort includes clean bedding, temperature, health, and feed. All these things need to be balanced to meet the cow’s “happy place.” Farmers use nutritionists to balance their herd’s food to make sure they are getting a good amount of nutrients in their diet. Too much protein and its lost to processing, and too little and the cow doesn’t produce to its best potential and could possibly lose weight. Ingredients are regularly tested to verify how many nutrients it contains and the formula is adjusted to keep feeding consistent.
When it comes to health, if livestock is sick, energy is used to fight the illness instead of producing milk. To help a cow get better, farmers use medication or antibiotics to fight whatever is causing the illness. These cows are then separated out of the milking herd so the medicine and antibiotics do not end up in the milk (the milk from a treated cow gets dumped), and also so the illness does not spread if contagious. It is important to treat a cow sooner rather than later not only from a production standpoint, but for the health and longevity of the cow’s life.
Clean bedding should be a no brainer. Cows want a clean and comfortable spot to lay and sleep, and if they aren’t sleeping then they are never giving their bodies time to rest. Just like people, cows can wear themselves out and being able to sleep comfortably doesn’t decrease milk production, but increases it because their bodies get to rejuvenate.
Temperature/weather is another factor in cow comfort and can be the toughest one to handle. No farmer can control the weather. The best they can do is try to use equipment to make it less of a factor. This factor could be one of the reasons why I have seen so many articles on this topic, because summer heat is on its way! The farm where I work keeps milking cows in a pack barn. This barn has four very large fans on the ceiling that turn on and rotate at a certain speed depending on the heat outside. Cows give off their own body heat and with temperatures rising, this helps prevent the barn from reaching overly hot temperatures. The barn is open-sided so it gives great air flow, and the moving fans help to create a cool barn. During the winter this same barn has two sets of curtains that drop down at designated temperatures. With the amount of body heat cows give off, closing the access for cool air to flow through is enough to keep the barn at a comfortable temperature for the cows.
Cow comfort is important to the cow’s welfare, but also to the farmer. If a farmer’s livestock is comfortable they are producing to the maximum and living longer. These factors help keep costs down by needing less cows to reach profitable production, it and benefits the environment because less cows mean less manure and less feed to sustain larger herds (which means less acreage for feed crops).