Happy cows lead to cash cows

Re­searchers say hap­pi­ness helps milk the most out of dairy cows

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAR­RIE ANTLFINGER

Dairy farm­ers, take note: The key to turn­ing your dairy cow into a cash cow is ud­der hap­pi­ness.

Give her a big­ger stall, in­crease air cir­cu­la­tion and pro­vide some shel­ter to pre­vent over­heat­ing.

That’s ac­cord­ing to a Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin ini­tia­tive that fo­cuses on mak­ing dairy cows hap­pier so they pro­vide more milk.

“I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we give them the spa treat­ment,” said Nigel Cook, who has di­rected the Dairy­land Ini­tia­tive at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sinMadi­son’s School of Ve­teri­nary Medicine since 2010.

Cook and his team visit farms to give ad­vice about myr­iad is­sues, in­clud­ing be­hav­iour and eas­ing cow stress. They also pro­vide work­shops and have cre­ated a web­site to share ad­vice with farm­ers world­wide.

Cook said ma­jor con­cerns in­clude leg pain or lame­ness, es­pe­cially among cows that stand for long pe­ri­ods with­out a com­fort­able rest­ing place.

“It im­pacts the way she rests, the way she milks, the way she eats, her abil­ity to re­pro­duce and ul­ti­mately her abil­ity to stay on the farm,” he said.

One so­lu­tion? Take her to the beach - or at least the farm equiv­a­lent.

“The deep soft bed­ding of sand cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where cows can rest half the day,” Cook said.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude adding sprin­klers and feed­ing cows at the same time - since herd an­i­mals pre­fer to do things to­gether. And while you’re at it, re­group cows less around birthing time to de­crease stres­sors as­so­ci­ated with es­tab­lish­ing a hi­er­ar­chy.

It’s ad­vice Mitch Bre­unig has been closely fol­low­ing with his 400 cows at Mys­tic Val­ley Dairy in Sauk City. He’s spent over $100,000 in im­prove­ments aimed at mak­ing his cows hap­pier, and said it’s been worth it. He’s even added an au­to­matic brush in his barn, which he said is con­stantly clean­ing dust off his cows.

“If you take away their stress, they ac­tu­ally pro­duce more milk, and the other thing that is ac­tu­ally in­ter­est­ing is they do

it by eat­ing less feed,” Bre­unig said.

Bre­unig has seen milk pro­duc­tion in­crease from about 13 gal­lons a milk a day per cow to 15 gal­lons. He said his cows also have fewer in­juries and live about a year longer.

CAR­RIE ANTLFINGER/AP PHOTO

Mitch Bre­unig stands among his 400 cows at Mys­tic Val­ley Dairy in Sauk City, Wis. Bre­unig has spent over $100,000 to im­prove his farm to make his cows hap­pier, in­clud­ing mak­ing his barn and stalls big­ger and adding fans and other air cir­cu­la­tion equip­ment.

CAR­RIE ANTLFINGER/AP PHOTO

David Me­drano milks cows at Mys­tic Val­ley Dairy in Sauk City, Wis.

CAR­RIE ANTLFINGER/AP PHOTO

Cows lie down on a bed of sand in their stalls at Mys­tic Val­ley Dairy.

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