Milk quality is affected by many causes, many of which we can control through appropriate management. One major area that involves many causes which can influence milk quality is cow comfort,
If you have a chance to build a new green field or renovate an existing site, you should focus on cow comfort from the start. Cows lie down for 12 to 14 hours a day, making the bedding surface on which they lie quite important. Sand is ideal because it encourages increased lying time, allows cows to switch between standing and lying easily, helps keep cows cool and doesn’t promote bacterial growth.
Bacteria are an udder’s worst enemy, and unlike sawdust or straw, sand doesn’t have organic matter that will help bacteria thrive in it. This does not mean that you can leave manure in stalls and expect the sand to take care of it. However, if you clean stalls habitually and make sure dry sand remains at curb height, there should be fewer opportunities for bacteria to enter the teat end when cows lie on top of it.
Clean and dry surface is the most important thing to endeavour for regardless of housing or bedding type.
Cows that go out to graze are often thought as producing poorer milk quality, but there is little to no scientific basis for this theory. Lush grass and ample shade allows cows to rest in a more comfortable environment outside. Many producers want cows to calve on pasture because they think of it as being a clean and comfortable area that may help during that stressful time. So why should that not be the case throughout lactation? Heat stress is a major consideration for pastured animals. Trees can provide effective shade, but cows will often compact the area around the trees, creating a mud hole, which can increase mastitis risk. Rotating fences between shady spots or providing portable shade areas can decrease this problem.
Saving on the small stuff can create big messes. The best herdsman in the world will still have things they don’t do perfectly because there are not enough hours in the day or enough money in the bank, but motivated to pay attention to as many details as possible will benefit you and your cows. There are no tricks or hidden secrets – “attention to detail” is the key to success. Mastitis management requires attention to detail in the parlour and in the housing system.
Building or renovating a housing system is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so doing it right is important. When designing a new facility or improving an existing facility, remember that cow comfort plays a large role in milk quality. Build your facility for the cows, not for the workers, and you may just start to see better milk quality results.
Invest in your Cows and you will see a profit in your workers.