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|Four New York dairies take innovative steps to achieve optimal cow comfort|
|Features - Producers|
|Written by Amy Throndsen|
This article was #9 in PDmag's Top 25 most-well read articles in 2011. Click here to jump to the article.
On a cold winter afternoon in North Lansing, New York, most people dream of warm summer days. This is not the case for Skip Hardie at Hardie Farms. Hardie knows that high summer temperatures increase the heat stress of his herd. Even in the cold winter, he’s thinking about how he can effectively and efficiently cool his cows."Where do you invest your money?" Hardie asked rhetorically. "I know that when I invest in something that improves the comfort of my cows, they will pay me back. I want to invest in a cooling system for my cows. I’m just not sure what that is yet."
Hardie, like many dairy farmers, must consider everything — from bedding surface and stall size to ventilation and lighting — to provide the best possible environment for their cows.
Click here to read about Hardie's thoughts on manure management and methane digesters from a 2009 Dairy Power Summit.
Hardie already installed waterbeds for cows and fans, but with new products continuously being introduced, new technologies being developed, and innovative solutions being shared throughout the industry, he must decide which steps to take to get the most out of his cows.
"We don’t have all the answers, but we aren’t afraid to try new things," said Ryan Akin of Hemdale Farms in Seneca Castle, New York. Hemdale Farms, a 900-head herd averaging 90 pounds of milk per cow, incorporated a number of techniques to increase cow comfort from the second they started moving dirt.
"By milking with robots, our cows can do whatever they want, whenever they want. They eat when they want. They sleep when they want. They drink when they want," said Akin.
If the cow is not ready to be milked, a gate will open on the opposite end of the station to signal the cow to leave the area. If she is ready to be milked, the milking cups are automatically placed over the teats and the milking begins. The process takes approximately 8 minutes, and the cow is fed food pellets while she’s waiting.
Hemdale Farms isn’t the only New York dairy utilizing innovative solutions to provide optimal cow comfort. Aurora Ridge Farm, a 1,700-head herd in Aurora owned by Bill Cook, already uses waterbeds for cows to bed their herd and designed the barns to have higher walls for more airflow.
A few improvements that will be made on Aurora Ridge Farm this year include a switch to fluorescent lighting and the installation of rubber flooring in front of the feed lanes for improved cow comfort when eating.
Aurora Ridge Farm has already installed swinging cow brushes in the freestall barn.
"The brushes clean the cow, remove old hair, and studies have shown they increase blood flow. We also think the brushes provide a bit of fun for the cows. See, look at how happy she is,” Westfall said as he pointed out one cow rubbing against and playing with the swinging brush.