Wednesday, January 23, 2013


We think our cows are pretty comfortable, especially when they are outside on pasture, but our opinion is somewhat subjective.  This fall we had the opportunity to have an independent group assess our facility as well as cow behavior to determine cow comfort on the farm.C.O.W.S. stands for Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-Being and Sustainability and is a program developed by a graduate student at the University of British Columbia and managed by NOVUS to measure cow comfort.

C.O.W.S. Project Manager Lindsey Collings and Katie Hanehan, Jr. Project Manager arrived before morning milking to take measurements of the stalls, water troughs, feed bunk and to apply the electronic data loggers that measure total lying time on 40 cows 3 years and older.  After milking, they visually evaluated gait scores and hock health and conducted a survey of management practices such as frequency of hoof trimming and bedding.

The bright orange monitors remained on the cows for 5 days.  They were removed and mailed to NOVUS along with the transmitter.  Staff analyzed the data and found that...Our COWS are indeed comfortable.  While they were being monitored, the cows were in during the day and outside at night so we combined both housing options.

The level of lameness was very low as was the degree of hock and knee injury.  Our cows spend an appropriate amount of time lying down and have adequate space for eating and drinking in the barn. Cows spend about 5 hours per day eating, 12-14 hours resting, 3 hours standing, walking, grooming and hanging out, a half hour per day drinking and 3.5 hours milking.  Thus, about 70% of the cow's day is spent eating and or resting.

Studies and general observation show that cows like to feed together, to feed early in the morning and early in the evening and will push other cows out of the way with more than 500 pounds of force to get to feed if there limited bunk space available.  We will feed in waves or batches if we have too many cows to eat in one feeding.

While this evaluation showed that we do have comfortable cows, it also reinforces our philosophy of observing, measuring and monitoring to be sure we minimize situations that could negatively impact cow comfort and well-being.


Robin R. Rastani said...

Thank you for sharing your feedback and appreciation of the COWS program! I am a Dairy Technical Specialist with Novus, and have seen and heard first-hand how this program has benefitted dairy producers and the cows.

Here's to wishing you and your Jerseys a happy, healthy and comfortable New Year!

MGHughes said...

Thumbs up! I'd give you a like on facebook, but it is boogered... Won't let me comment or 'like.'