Expert Insights

An Environment for Healthy, Productive and Long-lived Cows

Early in this edition of the latest VES-Artex Academy webinar, Huw McConochie poses a dynamic question: “Can your dairy produce 100-ton cows?” He goes on to make a statement that could be a mantra for all: “…there are certain economic situations which may warrant, or be beneficial, to turn cows over faster — but I think from an ethical and welfare and sustainable perspective, I think we really need to keep cows , healthy cows, productive cows — for longer.”

That’s the perfect setup for a great discussion that covers off on a number of practices, approaches and philosophies to make that happen.

·       The cow evolved to exist in an ideal environment — walking in grass, sleeping in wide open spaces — and then we put them into a very different environment and expect them to perform at optimal levels. “We need to change the way we do things in order for that cow to be more successful in the environment that we place her.”

·      There are many factors that remove cows from lactation. Of course there’s the reproduction process, but there’s also lameness, mastitis and low production. Many of the ways that a cow loses production can ultimately be tied back to lameness — we need to create an environment to reduce the number of lame cows.

·       There’s so much genetic potential in cows — genetics is not a bottleneck, but achieving that genetic potential is likely tied to the environment — and thus becomes the biggest bottleneck because we’re not getting these cows to last long enough in their lifetime to produce these high lactation averages.

How do we make the cow fit the environment, or the environment to fit the cow, to make her last longer and for you to achieve both a more humane existence for the cow, and a longer and more productive life for your dairy?

Watch this episode of the webinar for a wealth of topics and suggestions, including:

·       The role of hoof health in animal care, how we manage animals early in life and how that affects lameness.

·       How environments affect bone development and what that means to long-term animal health and wellbeing.

·       Feeding variables and considerations that have major lifetime influence on the productivity of an animal.

·       The unforgiving nature of concrete and the importance of minimizing a cow’s time on that surface.

·       Reducing milking times and lockup times to make cows more comfortable and to give them more time to eat, rest and produce milk.

·       The benefits of rubber in alleyways and other areas the cows spend significant time in.

·       Embracing the cow’s desire to lay down and building comfortable stalls that support animal health.

·       Comparing the cow’s natural stature when grazing to the often unnatural positions we put them into within our facilities to feed.

·       Giving cows quiet places to give birth = faster births = less retained placentas = less issues around calving = better transition to stronger performance during lactation.

·       The role of inflammation in transition diseases and how good transition protocols and a healthy transition process helps reduce disease and lameness.

·       Heat stress. Heat stress. Heat stress. And all the elements of animal wellbeing it impacts.

Watch this great webinar with Huw and move further down the path towards greater lifecycle health and wellbeing that will surely pay dividends in productivity!