Novus International, Inc., has introduced a program to help dairy producers enhance the comfort and well-being of their herds so they can better maximize productivity and enrich dairy industry sustainability.

C.O.W.S. stands for Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-Being and Sustainability.

"The C.O.W.S. program provides perspectives on environmental factors that affect overall comfort, including free-stall design and management, and feeding areas," Stephanie Gable, Novus Global Marketing Manager, Ruminants.

According to Gable, oxidative balance – the O in C.O.W.S. – is a linchpin for the other three pillars. Sound nutrition and proper oxidative balance are crucial in keeping cow immunity levels high for optimum health and performance. Oxidative stress can be induced by disease challenges, physiological conditions, environmental conditions and diet.

"Oxidative stress is displayed through a number of costly clinical signs that reduce profitability, from mastitis to reproductive inefficiency," says Gable. "Dealing with that stress requires energy that cows could use for milk production, growth, longevity and overall productivity. A good nutrition program, with an antioxidant, can reduce stress and maintain oxidative balance, negate the effect of dietary fat on rumen microorganisms, and improve milk production and milk fat levels."

Comfort and oxidative balance intertwine with well-being. C.O.W.S. evaluates well-being on the basis of gait scores that measure lameness, hock lesions and body condition scores. Lameness can mean less feed intake, reduced milk production, reproductive inefficiency and early culling.

The C.O.W.S. program will be offered to individual key Novus customers as a complementary, value-added service. Confidential farm evaluations will be performed by Novus specialists and include:

  • Cow lying time measured with electronic data loggers;
  • Gait scores and hock health;
  • Facility design and management measures that affect cow comfort including bedding frequency, stall dimensions, neck rail placement, feed bunk space and more. 

A customized report is provided to each farm, along with benchmarks of other operations in the region, so producers can gauge whether they have problems that should be addressed.

U.S. program benchmarks are currently being established through the evaluation of 140 dairy operations in California, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Texas. The program is based on a recently completed study by the University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program that analyzed on-farm cow comfort assessment with 43 free-stall dairies in that province. 

One dairy producer who has experienced the C.O.W.S. program first-hand is Steve Harnish, co-owner of Central Manor Dairy of Washington Boro, Pa. Harnish and his family partners milk approximately 200 cows three times a day in an operation that features both free-stall and compost-bedded-pack housing.

“I’ve found the C.O.W.S. program to be very effective in measuring metrics on the farm that directly affect cow comfort and operational profitability,” Harnish says. “As dairy farmers, I think we all tend to be a bit biased towards our own facilities and management. We assume this is as good as it gets, or this is all I’m capable of. But the C.O.W.S. program provides us with an independent unbiased perspective that’s important to help us identify areas of improvement that we might not recognize on our own.

“I would definitely recommend the C.O.W.S. program to other producers,” Harnish adds. “It can verify strengths but it also identifies problem areas that can be addressed to achieve higher production and greater efficiency and profitability.”

More information about the C.O.W.S. program can be obtained through Novus representatives or by visiting Learn more about oxidative balance in dairy cows by visiting the web site