Access to feed and water
Time-lapse video of cows around a water trough after being released from the headlocks or coming out of the parlor is interesting to watch! It is stressful to be thirsty and get beaten away from the trough by a boss cow because there is not enough water space. Evaluate where your water troughs are located, cleanliness and the linear foot of water space availability. If you video your cows, see if one water trough is avoided, and then figure out why.
Is fresh feed available to your cows at all times? Is there fresh feed when they leave the parlor? Is the feeding schedule correct so that cows return to fresh feed or do they have to wait for the feeder after returning to their pens? Do not assume it happens! A video can help us determine if the process is actually taking place correctly.
Most of us who live in the country cannot imagine being crowded in an urban location. We think that traffic, crowds of people, noise and pollution would be a stressful life! Our cows do not like to be crowded either. Not enough beds and not enough space at the feed bunk create stress. Keeping stocking density to the appropriate level for your pen size and bunk space will reduce stress and keep cows happier!
Removing the obstacles that create stress in our cows is a positive step towards improved productivity, less disease, and an overall happier cow. Cows that are happy reward their owners with an abundance of quality, wholesome milk. Ask your veterinarian what obstacles you can remove to create a happier cow on your farm.
Fred Gingrich is a practicing veterinarian and owner of Country Roads Veterinary Services, Inc., in Ashland, Ohio.