If you put a pen of cows together and feed them the perfect ration, they’ll produce lots of milk, right? That’s not necessarily so, audiences at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin’s annual meeting this Spring.

Don’t overlook the importance of cow behavior and social interaction in the equation. Social or behavioral problems can override management’s best efforts and become risk factors for metabolic disorders, lameness and other diseases, says Ken Nordlund, University of Wisconsin veterinarian. Researchers have found that if cows spend limited time lying down, do not have enough space and are moved frequently from group to group, it can increase their risk for common dairy diseases.