COOPERSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Rolling Spring Farm owners Charlie and Denise Bean are trying to milk their cows for all they're worth. In order to do so, they've taken a more pampered approach to dairy farming than the many generations before them.
The Beans last year built a new, state-of-the-art barn on their more than 130-acre farm in Canal Township that capitalizes on the concept of cow comfort because they believe that, much like people, a happy cow is a productive cow.
"(The new barn) has mostly improved cow comfort and cow health," Denise said. "And that was really our main purpose behind building it in the first place."
But the real benefit — aside from a more humane approach to raising cows, according to Charlie Bean — can be seen in sheer production numbers and milk quality.
Since the new barn was constructed, the cows have produced 10 or more extra gallons of milk a day, he said. While that may not seem like much moolah, a quick calculation over 365 days (after all, cows never quit making milk) reveals a potential for tens of thousands of extra dollars in revenue.
"Based on the improvements we've seen these cows produce up to an extra 10 gallons of good milk per day, and that alone will probably pay for the barn in the long run," Charlie said.
Using local ingenuity, a lot of field research (including a study of other farms in the state), donations from state farming supply companies and resources from the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence, the couple went about constructing a 100-cow barn on the hill just above their old milking barn.
"Dairy farmers have long been innovators when it comes to giving optimal animal care," said John Frey, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence. "And what you're seeing here is an example of that."
The new barn includes a more-than-ample walking track for the numerous bovine guests, with open stalls that permit cows to move freely (or rest peacefully) throughout the space. The middle of the walking loop is covered in sand, providing extra cushion for cows looking to take a load off.
But cow comfort is about more than a little space to stretch out. The new facility also includes an open-ended wall equipped with about six large fans that help keep air constantly circulating, which in turn keeps cows cool, even in near 100-degree temperatures such as were experienced in the county last week. On Thursday, the temperature in the barn was a cool 68 degrees.
Walls on both sides of the barn are constructed of semi-transparent materials that allow the barn to remain lighted in the daytime without the need for costly electrical lighting, so cows never have to feel left in the dark.