Happy Cows Give More Milk

     In the early 1990s I was employed  as a Technical Service Veterinarian by the Impro Company of Waukon, Iowa.   A big part of my job was to provide education meetings on holistic dairy management for clients and potential customers.  The title of one of my talks was “Happy cows give more milk.“ 

      The basic premise was that stress free cows were happy cows and could turn their energy to milk production rather that fighting stress. The presentation centered around standard holistic management strategies to reduce stress.   I still think this concept has much merit.

     On a whim, I submitted a post on the “Happy Cows“ concept to a dairy discussion group I followed on the internet. The response from the list owner, a University professor,  was a strong request for me to never again send such unscientific and frivolous posts to the list.  I was appalled at this example of a closed-off, educated scientific mind. 

     A few weeks ago I reviewed an article entitled  Researchers say happiness turns dairy cows into cash cows   (http://flipboard.com/@flipboard/-researchers-say-happiness-turns-dairy-c/f-c77d7d29a1%2Fapnewsarchive.com)    The author clearly stated that Happy Cows give more milk.  I was vindicated.  At last someone in academia had stumbled onto the Happy Cows idea. 

     I was so thrilled I looked up my old notes on Happy cows from 1992, and with only a little revision and polishing they are presented below.

Top 10 Steps  for Happier Cows 
and  More profitable Dairying

Genetics Choose genetics for production capacity and not ‘show ring” conformation.  Too straight legs predispose to lameness problems.  Cow have better reproduction if the pin bones are lower than the hip bones. The rumen is about the same size in any size cow.  Larger cows have more abdominal space than the rumen needs and are more prone to displaced abomasums.

Nutrition Beware of excess protein.  Do not feed unnatural feedstuffs such as urea, NPN, fat, or dried manure.  Check for moldy feed, aflatoxins or mycotoxins.  Support the rumen with prebiotics, probiotics, lactobacillus and enzymes. Manage feeding interval and bunk space.  Self feed a variety of individual minerals so animals can balance their mineral needs. 

Water: Check water for nitrates and livestock suitability and culture for Aerobacter and Pseudomonas bacteria. Clean drinking water cups and troughs frequently.  Install water meter to measure consumption.

Stray voltage: Check regularly for stray voltage in all areas of cow contact.

Milking equipment: Check frequently for vacuum levels at the inflations. High vacuum levels at the teat ends or too harsh teat dips can predispose to staph mastitis.

Milking Procedures:  Insure a good let-down and timely milker attachment.

Ventilation Especially important for calves. A calf should never have to breathe air that has been in a cows lungs. 

Care of the udder:  At dry off time, just quit milking, after 5 or 6 days,  when the swelling begins to recede, check the milk in the udder and milk out completely.  Normal looking milk indicates successful dry-off.  If milk appears abnormal begin treatment of choice.

When the cow begins bagging - usually a couple weeks pre calving, check the condition of the milk.  If the milk is abnormal begin milking twice a day and begin treatment.  Pre-partum milking in good for all cow’s udder health.
Culturing flare-ups may indicate patterns of infection.  Staph infection is frequently caused by high teat-end vacuum and strep infection by not getting a proper letdown. 

Reproduction:  Avoid infusing anything into the uterus that you would not squirt into your own eye.

Give calves the best start you can:  If a calf gets sick in the first few months it will never reach its full potential.  At birth, saturate the navel with iodine — milk out the colostrum and feed it to the calf — Dose the calf with a good lactobacillus product.  Raise the calf in a hutch to benefit from limited isolation.