Cow Care: Housing - Washington Dairy

Cow Care: Housing

It all starts with the best housing.

Washington dairy farmers take the utmost pride in caring for the animals which starts with the best housing options available. The procedures followed by dairy farmers ensure the health and safety of all animals through all stages of life which makes cows feel secure and content.

The best housing starts from well before calves are born with clean and comfortable places for expectant mother cows to live. These clean conditions protect mom and baby from harmful bacteria and other risks.

“The perfect little incubator.”

After birth, the new calf will also begin their journey comfortably in it’s own calf hutch. These hutches, described by one dairy farmer as the perfect little incubator) allow young calves to grow strong without the threat of contagious illness and physical injury from adult cows.

Housing that is appropriate to local climate conditions promotes health, growth and happiness among all animals. Housing design emphasizes sufficient space for cows to move about and express normal behaviors while obtaining access to food, water and resting space without competition from their herd mates. Cows do much of their best milk-making when they are resting in a place where they feel comfortable and secure.

Most Washington dairy farms have moved to free-stall housing arrangements. These stalls allow individual cows to choose their preferred place to eat, drink or rest. To comfortably support the 1,500 pound weight of a resting cow, dairies make use of sand bedding, rubber mattresses and even waterbeds. These help to minimize injuries when the cow lies down or stands up; they also keep her cleaner. To further reduce the chances of injury, flooring is designed and maintained to avoid slips and falls; non-skid and even cushioned surfaces provide more secure and comfortable walkways.

Dairy farmers take other measure to make sure their animals are as comfortable as possible:

  • Adequate ventilation promotes good health among both animals and farm workers.
  • Frequent removal of manure (two or more times per day) and changes of bedding materials promotes proper animal hygiene and positive udder health.
  • Appropriate lighting and temperature control contribute to animal contentedness.

Cows are sensitive animals and stress reduces their milk-making efficiency which is why dairy farmers implement routine schedules and the minimization of fear sources keep them in a positive mood. Some dairies have even placed milking parlor machinery in the basement compartments to minimize noise while others pipe in music to keep the animals calm.


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