Treatment Of Dairy Cows For Best Performance

Dairy products are among the most frequently consumed animal products in the world. Due to the immense volume of milk production, dairy cows, which are intelligent, empathetic, and affectionate animals, are forced to endure unsatisfying living conditions. Generally speaking, cows live in sheds of about 20 individuals, sharing a clear hierarchy with one dominant cow. They spend most of their time grazing, covering several kilometers daily. Their other main pastime is ruminating, during which they lie down and rest.

Cows are extremely curious and intelligent animals. They have long-term memories, and as such, can learn from one another. They have distinct personalities, and, therefore, forge long-lasting friendships. Cows have a strong bond with their calves as mothers. They mourn the loss of friends and family members just as humans do. Cows are affectionate mothers and share the role of watching over their playful calves with their other female members.

Today, in industrial dairy farms, cows are bred specifically to produce the maximum amount of milk. This breeding has led to an increase in the average milk yield per cow. Calves naturally require around eight litres of milk per day. Modern breeds of dairy cows in industrial farms produce between 50 and 12,000 litres of milk per day.

Consequently, even though the number of cows on dairy farms in Europe has declined, the volume of milk produced has increased. Producing milk at an unnaturally elevated level is physically exhausting for cows, comparable in terms of metabolic effort to running 1.5 marathons every day. Half a tonne of blood needs to be pumped through a cow’s udder in order for one litre of milk to be produced by her body!

General Treatment Tips For Cows For Best Performance

#1. Nutrition

Assure that calves are receiving sufficient amounts of colostrums. Maintain ample quantities of clean water. Provide animals with enough food to allow growth, maintenance, pregnancy weight gain, and lactation. Limit the amount of feed that they receive so that they are not too thin/fat. You need to make sure your feed is balanced for energy and protein, and supplement with minerals and vitamins. Additionally, some plants that we grow as food for humans, but can poison cattle include cabbage, any plant in the brassica family, onions, amaranthus, and beans. In addition, some of the plants such as amaranthus, brassicas, and beans can be eaten by cows in large quantities.

#2. Vaccination

Vaccinate animals against the diseases common in the area, and provide booster shots whenever and wherever necessary.

#3. Locomotion and Activity

The confinement of cows in tie-stalls severely limits natural animal behavior such as walking, exploration of the back, and grooming of their hindquarters. The following research suggests that tethered cows behave abnormally to compensate for the bare environment in their stalls by chewing on stall components, sniffing and licking the equipment or the ground, and rubbing their nose against the equipment. With one hour of daily exercise, these cows increased their social, sniffing, grooming, and licking behaviors.

Research in cattle shows cows are highly motivated to exercise. Cows restricted from exercising displayed increased play behavior when released into a paddock, increased movement, and exploratory behavior, and increased self-grooming. According to this research, exercise opportunities for intensive dairy cattle production systems are inadequate.

#4. Treatment of diseases

The animals should be observed regularly for abnormalities and should be taken to veterinary specialists for treatment whenever necessary. Animals with chronic infections that do not respond to treatment should be culled.

#5. Movement of Animals; Flooring and Bedding

When purchasing new stock, make sure the animal is healthy and has had the necessary vaccinations before bringing them on the farm. Do not bring sick animals into the farm or animals from an area infested with diseases; observe quarantine regulations.

It has been shown that rubber flooring material can be used to reduce slipping and improve ambulation on concrete floors. Yet, concrete floors have been proven to be problematic for cows.

Concrete floors are expensive and easy to clean. Provided bedding results in increased comfort, cleanliness, and welfare for dairy cows. The type of flooring and bedding should provide sufficient thermal insulation, a low risk of abrasion, and a reasonable degree of softness and friction.  A soft synthetic bedding material without increasing the risk of infection is the best choice given that organic bedding material, such as straw or wood shavings, may pose a substrate for bacterial growth and, as such, result in a higher risk of mastitis.

This has been demonstrated in studies using poor flooring and bedding. Reduced lying or resting has been associated with reduced levels of growth hormones; and changes in behaviors such as eating, grooming, and idling, as well as hoof lesions that result in lameness. The total lying time of cows can also be improved when bedding material such as sawdust is added to different mattresses such as those in free stalls in order to increase the animal’s preference for soft surfaces rather than hard ones, for example, wood chip pads rather than concrete or gravel. In general, cows housed in cubicle systems spend significantly less time lying than cows housed in straw yards, even when the straw is provided in the cubicles.

#6. Parasite control

Deworming should be undertaken every three months. Controlling tick infestations should be carried out by spraying each week or otherwise according to the acaricides used.

#7. Environment

Provide a comfortable, clean, and safe environment for all dairy animals. You may wish to take measures to avoid parasitic infestation, such as clearing the bushes on your farm. If your cows are kept in barns, clean the stalls every day and provide fresh straw to them.

#8. Social Impacts

The animals that are provided the more natural living conditions form stable social bonds and are rarely forced to join another herd. In production systems, young heifers are usually grouped into unfamiliar lactation groups, which are subsequently reorganized according to lactation status or other factors. The repeated regrouping may lead to an increase in cortisol, which may result in aggressive reactions. Many researchers believe that cows adapt to repeated regroupings, but one team discovered that aggressive behavior continued to rise even after they were regrouped 16 times and it took even longer to establish dominance in the herd.

In free stalls, dry lots, and straw yards, the space allotted per cow is typically so restrictive that cows must crowd around lying places and feed bunks, which can cause problems for subordinate animals who face aggression from dominant individuals. Lack of opportunity to avoid aggression causes discomfort and frustration. Increased space at the feed bunk and barriers to physically separate cows have been proven to reduce the number of aggressive interactions between cows and allow better access to feed.

Tethered cows in tie-stalls have little opportunity for social interaction. It has been observed that an increase in blood cortisol has been observed upon a series of stressful or painful experiences. This phenomenon, hypoalgesia, has occurred in many species after exposure to stressful or painful experiences. It is then believed that it is a coping mechanism by which animals may be more able to withstand aversive environments since they have decreased sensitivity to pain. 

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