Cows deserve a longer and better life and farmers a better income and more working pleasure. To achieve this, a cow’s comfort should remain a priority. Both the farmer and cow will earn the respect and appreciation of milk drinkers.
Always take time to closely observe your standing cow. By observing carefully and learning from the body-language of the cow and herd, every dairy manager can easily get to know the six freedoms of the pasture that the cow wants.
Ask the following questions: What do you see? What are the reasons? What should you do? Observe the principles of Cow signals, which are Look! Think! Observe! See! and Act!
Whatever you observe, always ask why? The whys make you wiser and enable you to note Unexplained Notable Observation (UNOs) such as waiting cows, intention movements, animals at risk and risk areas/periods/groups, which tell you a lot about the condition of your herd. Observation helps you to learn to understand the body-language of your cows.
Besides feed and water, a cow needs light, air, rest and space.
Straw for bedding
Use straw as cow bedding to provide a dry, soft and good grip and 45 percent of your cows will have healthy claws. On the contrary, using concrete as cow bedding results in 15 percent of the dairy herd with healthy claws. It must also fit squarely in its cubicle.
14-16 hour rest
A cow should rest on sand, straw or sawdust for 14 to 16 hours to achieve maximum milk production, all other factors held constant. Every hour a cow lies down results in a 30 percent increase in blood flow through the udder, providing an additional one litre of milk. Cows should stand for a maximum of two hours a day and lie down most of the time. If your cows are not lying down then there is a problem.
Feeding and cow comfort
Economical Feeding developed by Prof. W. O. Atwater in 1878 named the reasons for cow feeding to be growth, maintenance, reproduction and production. It is also worth noting that 71 to 73 percent of the fat-free body weight of a cow is water and that 87.5 percent of milk is water. Ensure that clean drinking water is available all the time for good milk production.
While diets high protein, salts, and fibre are critical in milk production and are consumed highly by dairy animals, it should be noted that these feeds also increase the animals water loss.
Therefore ensure that your cows are well sheltered and protected from excess heat. Heat stress is negatively affects dairy production, lowers feed intake and milk production. Pregnant cows with no shelter, have metabolic rates which are 18 -36 percent higher than cows provided with shelter. High production cows are also susceptible to more nutritional stress (4 percent of their body weight).
Negative energy balance
Two months after calving – most dairy cows will be at negative energy balance and may lose 100kg of weight during early lactation. Cows convert feed energy to body tissue more efficiently during lactation than during dry period so ensure that your cows have access to feeds 18-20 hours/day and 12-22meals per day.
The higher the moisture content >50 percent the lower the DM intake
Some of the handicaps dairy farmers should look out for are:
Handicaps of the barn.
- Too much standing. When your cows stand too much on hard surfaces, it could result in 25 percent of your herd suffering from lameness and 30 percent wounds.
- A cow must fit squarely in its cubicle. If your cubicle is not comfortable (too small) you may observe your cows standing outside the cubicle wondering what to do. When cubicles are comfortable cows automatically lie in them.
- A cow should rest on good comforatable bedding material. Good choice of bedding materials will provide dry, soft barn with good grip for your animals and 45 percent of cows will have healthy claws.
- In addition, for every hour a cow lies down there is a 30 percent increase in blood flow through the udder, which provides for an additional one litre of milk. On the contrary, using concrete as cow bedding will result in only 15 percent of the dairy herd having healthy claws.
When your cows appear to be waiting observe what the problem could be and this will help you find a better solution.
Cow barn alleys that are too small will encourage bullying of the weaker cows by the more aggressive ones. This could interfere with their eating pattern, overall comfort. and cosequently milk production.
Animals at risk and indicator animals
There are certain animals on the farm that are at greater risk than others. They are often the first to send out signals indicating something is wrong and are referred to as indicator animals. Observing their behaviour can warn you of an impending problem.
For example, high producing dairy cows will be the first to suffer from reduced milk production the minute something goes wrong in the formulations.
Otherwise brave and friendly animals: If you walk into your dairy and your normally brave heifer runs away from you , it could be a sign of some mishandling of the herd going on.
Swollen hocks will develop from impact with hard surfaces floors, slippery stall floors or moist surfaces. So if your cows have swollen hocks take a closer look at the conditions of your floors.
Your manager should correct these conditions even as he deals with the medical side of the swollen hock. This will correct the problem from the root and reduce the chances of it recurring.
It is important to ensure that your cows are well-sheltered and protected from excess heat. Pregnant cows with no shelter, have metabolic rates hat are 18 – 36 percent higher than cows provided with shelter