Since cattle in the UK are housed for at least a couple of months or more throughout the year, there are several elements that need to be considered – water, light, air, rest, space and feed, all of which can be artificially controlled or assisted, whilst cows aren’t able to graze at pasture.
However, sometimes a cow’s signals might go unnoticed by farmers. Over-familiarity with the herd can lead to a type of blindness to behaviour changes. That is why “standing back” is encouraged, taking a good look at the herd and noticing if any aren’t eating, drinking or lying down.
A cow’s day should comprise of roughly 14 hours lying down and the remainder of the day should be split between milking, socialising and eating. Ensuring that your cow is resting for 14 hours has been proven to improve milk yields by increasing blood flow to the udder, which can also lower the risk of mastitis.
At any one time roughly 85% of your herd should be lying down. If your cows aren’t lying down, here are some factors to consider:
- Firstly, is there space? If your cows don’t have enough space to lie down comfortably this could decrease their resting times, this might mean that the cubicles are too small or the wrong dimensions for the size of the cows.
- Consider the lying surface– if the cattle are uncomfortable then they aren’t going to rest. Ensure your mats or mattresses provide suficient cushioning, to promote lying down, as well as hoof health. If you have concrete cubicles, deep enough bedding is essential.
- Finally, bedding. Providing your cows with soft bedding will encourage your cows to rest for longer and could increase your milk yields. One recommended strategy is rubbing the bedding onto the back of your hand to test whether it will irritate the cows hock. Also keep an eye out for hock abrasions in the herd that could have been caused by the bedding.
A dry and absorbent bedding will reduce the spread of bacteria and can lead to lowered levels of mastitis and general positive health in the herd. A healthy and happy herd will lie down for longer, resulting in an improved milk yield.
As well as the above factors, room for feeding, sufficient water (cows are thirsty!) and good levels of lighting, and ventilation are also key. Speak with your housing specialists or vets for some additional advice here.
If you listen to your cows they will tell you whether they’re happy and with a few small changes you can improve overall herd health, because if you look after the cows, the cows will look after you.
If you are looking for some dry, absorbent bedding that will promote long lying times and positive cow behaviours find out more about our Cubicle Conditioners today!