Gordie Jones: Comfortable, Couch Potato Cows Produce More Milk
September 30, 2020
If you want to boost milk production in your herd, it might not cost you a dime. Instead, consider investing some time in figuring out how comfortable your cows are, recommends Gordon (Gordie) Jones, DVM.
“Higher milk production occurs when there’s an absence of stress,” explains Jones, a consulting veterinarian and partner in the Central Sands Dairy, based near Nekoosa, Wis.
“The cow has three jobs – to stand to eat and drink, stand to give milk and then spend the rest of her time lying down,” says Jones, who has consulted with dairy producers in 37 countries around the world.
During an AgriTalk session with host Chip Flory, Jones shared the three practices that he believes contribute most to cow comfort and, in turn, support higher milk production.
Excellent bedding is first on his list of priorities.
“Cows need a comfortable bed, a deep-bedded stall, whether it's bedded with solids or with sand or with chopped straw,” Jones says.
Historically, providing a space for a cow to lay down was just something nice to do. That’s no longer the case. Now, there’s an economic incentive.
“Science tells us that if we lay a cow down one extra hour, we'll get 3.5 to 4 pounds more milk,” he notes.
In recent years, sand has gained in popularity for bedding as it provides cushion and dries quickly.
“It’s like lying at the beach all day for the cow,” Jones says.
An additional benefit is that sand can be washed, dried and reused. “Recovery rates are above 90%, so it’s a renewable resource for us,” he says.
“If you keep a dry, clean bed you can reduce mastitis, and if you keep a cow laying down you can reduce lameness,” Jones adds.
Make sure cows have access to fresh air.
Cows that breathe fresh air routinely eat more and give more milk.
Eliminating heat stress is the third factor that Jones says helps keep cows comfortable.
“We're comfortable at 70 degrees, but a cow at 68 degrees is already feeling heat stress,” Jones says. “You want to keep her body below that temperature or at thermal neutral.”