What is the comfort of a cow? Cattle site

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What is the comfort of a cow?

September 12, 2022

Changing management and mindset to design the environment for the cow, not the worker


Cow comfort has become a buzzword in the dairy industry, but it is often not defined or even understood. So what is “Cow Comfort”?

The domestication of cows has made humans responsible for their welfare. In exchange for housing, fodder and good care, the cow provides milk and meat. Therefore, facility design and management must be based on the animal’s physiology, behavior, needs, and care. Providing an environment that puts cow comfort in mind really means that the environment is designed for the cow, not the worker. This doesn’t mean the worker has to be uncomfortable or unsafe on the job, it just means that the cow is now the lead designer on the team. In the past the philosophy was a lot, “We’ll build what we want and then force the cow into it.”

The question still remains “what is” cow comfort? Simply put, the comfort of cows is the minimization of stress in the animal’s environment in order to maximize productive capacity. Stress on the cow robs the cow of the ability to produce milk and the health we have gained through better breeding and feeding programmes. The cow must eat, drink, lie down and make milk or exude.

Cow’s comfort is also a management and mindset decision that requires dedication. Just saying that we will design the facilities with cow comfort in mind is not enough. While good management can improve bad design, even great design cannot make up for poor management.

Attention to detail plays a huge role in cow comfort. While comfort issues can be significant in scale, issues with cow comfort are often related to small details in the environment. These could be small details like a sticky valve on the water pan, a dirty fan that doesn’t provide the amount of air it should, or a rail that’s a few inches too low.

Where should you look for rest problems? What you really need to ask is, “What is the most restrictive resource for cows?” There can be many limiting elements to any given housing system, but just like a chain, a housing system is only as good as its weakest link. Start with the basics, air, water, feed, and stalls. Doing a better job with the basics will move the production bar up and give cows a better chance of achieving their genetic potential.

Also, cow comfort is not just for the milking herd. You must also have good facilities and management to raise cows, calves and calves. These animals are the economic future of the farm and should not be treated as second-class citizens.

While many cow comfort issues have to do with facility design, management of these facilities is essential to achieving good comfort for cows in the barn. Job descriptions and standard operating procedures should be developed and implemented keeping in mind the welfare of the cow at all times. As a dairy industry, we have an ethical obligation to provide the care, safety and comfort of cows for animals in exchange for milk and meat.