The Luxurious Life of Dairy Cows
Dairy cows today live a first class lifestyle. Thanks to the development of the modern dairy barn, cows enjoy many of the same amenities we do today.
Over the years, dairy farmers and animal researchers have developed the best way to house cows and give them the best comfort possible. Today’s modern dairy barn gives the cows a luxurious living experience.
Cows today live better than some people in the world. The cows enjoy many of the modern day comforts that many people in the world do not get to enjoy. They have a nutritionist balanced diet, medical aid and attention from veterinarians, clean available water, soft beds, a protective shelter, and even moderated temperatures to keep them comfortable.
Here are some of the main features inside the barns and how they make a difference:
The Bedding Area
The bedding area is the most important part of the barn. Many farms today use sand to fill the stalls because it’s soft and comfortable. It is actually like sleeping on the beach.
It’s important to keep the cows dry and clean. The beds (also called free stalls) help dairies accomplish that goal. Cleaner cows produce better quality milk and have much less infections from bacteria in the natural environment. These modern dairy barns have actually improved the quality of milk quite significantly over the years.
You can read about milk quality and how much farms have been improving milk quality over the years in my previous post
Freestalls as opposed to tie stalls in the old days. In a modern dairy barn, the cow can choose anywhere to sleep while in the old days, cows were often tied in the same stall. Interestingly though, you’ll often find her sleeping in the same freestall each day, or same area of the barn
The freestalls seem like a simple design, but a lot of research has gone into designing freestalls to get the proper size right for the cows. The stalls need to be spacious enough so the cow has enough room and doesn’t feel overcrowded. The inventive design points the cow forward so any manure will be dumped in the flush lane while keeping the bed clean.
Many dairies today use sand as bedding. Sand is one of the cleanest beddings you can use for cows. Sand is good at absorbing moisture and pulling it away from the cows udder. Because sand is inorganic, it does a good job at preventing bacterial growth. This is bad news for bacteria, but good news for cows. Sand is also super cool in the summer and who wouldn’t want to lay in it.
The Feed Lane
Because the feed lane is sheltered inside the barn, it’s protected from environmental influences and contamination. Extreme weather can make the feed bad pretty quickly, but in the barn the feed bunk is protected and dry.
It may seem like a simple feature, but the feed lane is also pretty important. How much feed a cow eats will influence how much milk a cow will give. And not eating enough can cause nutritional deficiencies. So it is important to make sure her feed tastes great all the time. If a cow’s feed is not to her liking (smells bad, is dirty, ect) she will refuse to eat as much. The barn enhances feed quality for the cows.
The most important nutrient for a cow is water. Remember that milk is 87% water. A single cow will drink at least 30 gallons of water each day. It’s important then to make sure water is freely and easily accessible to all the cows. You don’t want lines at the water cooler.
The Flush Lane
A lot of jokes are made of cow manure, but the saying is true- it happens. The flush lane allows dairy farmers to more easily clean the barn with minimal disturbance to the cows. Some dairies flush recycled water for a few minutes periodically to clean the lane. In areas where water is not as plentiful, the barn may be scraped instead to minimize water use.
Sustainable practices happen at most every dairy because the a cow’s waste is a tremendous resource – it is not wasted. The nutrients in the manure help grow more productive crops. Often the manure is dried or applied to surrounding farmland to be recycled as fertilizer for crop fields.
The barn is designed architecturally to promote good airflow and ventilation. The way the barn is designed allows for proper airflow to allow fresh air in the barn while expelling the old air. If you walk inside one of these barns, the first thing you notice is that it keeps temperature moderated and feeling fresh.
The walls on the side of the barns have curtains that can be raised and lowered according to the weather. In the winter, the curtains block the icy cold wind and snow. They help moderate the temperature so the cows stay comfortable. Cows can be affected pretty greatly by weather.
In the winter time, cows can become subject to cold stress when temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. When cows are stressed by the cold, their body’s maintenance requirements go up. Cows need to eat more feed to stay warm. Happy cows are cows that are not freezing to death.
When the temperate climbs above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, cows can become subject to heat stress. Heat makes cows pretty stressed because they tend to eat less while expending more energy panting. You have to remember they are wearing leather coats.
The barn itself helps alleviate heat stress by providing shade, but many farms go the extra mile. Fans in the barn help move air thought the barn to cool the cows. Often some water will be sprayed in a mist to help cool the cows. When the fan blows, there is evaporative cooling that takes place. It’s really effective at reducing a cow’s temperature, and keeps them cool in the summer.
Lighting helps cows see for a longer period of time. When the days get shorter, lights become a real help to keep the cow’s day normal.
Let me know
Surprised by anything, or have more questions about the barns- let me know in the comments below