The answer to keeping cows happy may be as simple as a name and attitude adjustment.
Third-generation Oregon dairy farmer Bob Bansen has learned what it takes to keep his 230 milk cows and heifers and calves happy. He treats them like his own children, according to a report by The New York Times, available here.
Bansen’s herd includes a Hosta, Jill, Sophia, Kimona, Edie, Pesto, Clare, and Pasta. Bansen can easily point out each animal, as well as her offspring and unique dairy specs.
Research backs up Bansen’s method and success.
A 2009 British study showed that cows that were called by name produced nearly 100 gallons of milk more per 10-month lactation cycle than those who weren’t. Researches hypothesized that calling cows by name could have a soothing effect, or it could indicate a kinder attitude of the dairy farmer. Read more here.
“For productivity, it’s important to have happy cows,” Bansen says. “If a cow is at her maximum health and her maximum contentedness, she’s profitable. I don’t even really manage my farm so much from a fiscal standpoint as from a cow standpoint, because I know that, if I take care of those cows, the bottom line will take care of itself.”
Bansen’s key to happy cows doesn’t end there. He switched to organic production as well as reverting to the traditional approach of sending cows out to pasture on grass. Bansen also runs a sort of “bovine retirement home,” postponing sending older, less-productive cows to slaughter.
While his methods are not practical for many farms, there is an important lesson to be learned in the kinder, gentler approach.