Cow comfort is a key component in achieving and maintaining high milk production.
One aspect of cow comfort that is typically underestimated in farms is the effect of pen movements on cows. It is very common for a new user to be surprised when they realize the negative impact pen changes have on cows.
The above graph tracks the activity (green line) and rumination minutes (purple line) relative to the individual cow’s average activity and rumination (the gray line).
The red square highlights her behavior following a pen change; both activity and rumination are higher than her previous average for both behaviors. Her rumination pattern is choppy which may point towards slug feeding. This abnormal behavior lasted for about five days until she showed a heat!
The orange square highlights the cow’s behavior following the heat, once she adjusted to her new environment. Activity patterns are just below her average and rumination pattern is much smoother.
Daily milk production graph.
Her milk production was negatively impacted by the pen change, as well. Only after she showed a heat her production began on the road to recovery.
Now that we know have insight of the negative effect of pen movements on cows, what can we do about it?
Obviously, pen movements cannot be eliminated, but there are a few lessons we can apply.
First, the fewer pen changes, the better.
Second, when moving cows, move several cows at the same time. There are more cows to pick on, so each new cow gets less attention from her new pen mates and they socialize at a quicker rate.
Activity (green line) and rumination (purple) changes from baseline for cow moved to new pen with several other cows. Effect of pen move is minimal, normal behavior prevails after 24 hours.
Cow comfort is sometimes the X factor that separates between a good herd and a great herd. The fewer disturbances a cow faces during a lactation, the more productive she’ll be. Even if these disruptions are necessary, one can find ways to work with the cows and minimize the negative implications of each disruption.
These little things add up to big returns. Listen to your cows!