Of all the valuable reading I get on the modern day smoke signal (Internet), I get more from the dairy magazines than any other now. The dairy farmers have learned the best ways to get the most production out of a cow.
Nutrition, cow comfort, and milking style seem to be really important things that make the operation successful.
I have read that nutrition has changed from an art to a science with technology. It is amazing how effective our feeding of animals has become, when we control the feed they eat and the time they eat.
It used to be standard practice to milk morning and night. I have read in some cases they may milk up to six times a day, on the modern dairy. The way cows are milked, the kind of parlor design, and the skill of the milker is very important for production.
Cow comfort is very well thought out. All kinds of creature comforts are provided – water at the proper temperature (some dairies run milk and water pipes together to cool the milk and warm the water), feeding and feed bunk design for optimum cow intake, and the very best rest areas for cow comfort and reduction of lameness.
I recently learned from a dairy specialist for Zoetis that they design dairies for cows to turn to the right. The gut of the dairy cow is so large that they have a difficult time turning left, because of the way the gut is designed so the cow likes to turn right.
These are just some of the things I have learned about the dairy world. I am certain if you learn more about the business there would be much more to learn about the science of making cows more productive.
This is a problem that I see happening. The dairy industry has gotten so good that the cows are are actually working themselves to death.
When a cow’s genetics have caused her to have a gut so large that you must design facilities you may be going to far. Watch one try to get up.
The length of time a cow is productive is less than it used to be. The production part of the cow is getting to be more than the transportation part of the cow can handle.
A lot of the negative animal welfare on national media coverage has involved dairy cattle. Animals with limited mobility, handlers not using proper animal handling techniques, and usually handlers trying to force the animal to go faster than it is capable of all led to these animal welfare problems.
To be blunt, the cows are not taken out of production soon enough and are not in good enough shape physically to go from milking to slaughter.
The other problem happens when the handlers don’t have the time or compassion to slow down or use the proper equipment to get the job done correctly.
I am a big fan of the Mexican charro skills with a rope. These skills are amazing. The Mexican culture with animals is much different than ours. We must make the Hispanics understand that our culture will not tolerate what we in our culture view as abuse to animals. In my opinion it is more important to learn this than it is to learn English.
The Mexican culture with animals is not the same as ours. We must keep reinforcing and encouraging proper handling practices frequently. To just think we can tell them once and then all the tradition and habits will go away is ridiculous.
It is also important for the dairy employee to get skilled at Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) practices. We see that they are way behind the beef industry in this. Again it is important that the employee understands the impact of doing things wrong.
One thing I feel we could all benefit from is our emotions toward animals. Animal handling expert Bud Williams spoke of this all the time. He felt animals really responded well to a person that enjoyed working with animals, and the mood of the people dealing with the animals was really important to health and production. I read of a study that showed when you named a dairy cow her production went up. The researcher surmised that if something has a name people care about it more.
It is so incredible to have not only nutrition go from an art to a science, but many other aspects of animal care as well. In college it changed from animal husbandry to animal science. We better be careful not to go to far toward science. We may even benefit to getting back to the way we felt about animals when we hand milked twice a day.
The dairy industry has come so far in animal science, but I think they need to get back to the art of animal husbandry. I think we all need to learn more on the art of animal husbandry.
It’s the right thing to do, and that’s Stockmanship and Stewardship.
~ Curt Pate