Finally, there is a European study that examined the milk production variance among 47 dairy herds and they found that stocking density of stalls alone explained about 1/3 of the variation in milk yield among farms. Between 80 and 120% stall stocking density the herds averaged about 64 pounds/cow/day. At 80% or below, herds averaged about 68 pounds/cow. There was considerable variation among farms, so I would take this milk data with a grain of salt, but it does indicate the potential for a positive milk response with under-crowded cows.
So, does understocking make sense? Economically, no. But we need to think about what the natural cow responses are telling us when there is super-abundant access to stalls and feed (>1 headlock or 24 inches of bunk space per cow; >1 stall per cow). Our industry may well benefit if we can figure out strategies that allow greater access to resources for the individual cow housed in a group (especially the subordinate cow), but within an economical management system.
Located in northern New York, the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute conducts research programs that apply basic science to contemporary problems confronting the dairy industry, with a focus on the crop-animal-environment interface, and cow comfort and behavior.