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Barns & Equipment

Whether using a tiestall, freestall, dry lot or pasture, here are some tips for cow comfort and maintaining farm facilities and equipment.

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Summary: In this March 1st feature, Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee described the efforts of Paul, Steve and Joe Fetzer to increase cow comfort on their 800-cow dairy. The brothers installed a new eight-row, cross-ventilated freestall barn in 2008 and have since seen an average milk production of 85 pounds per day.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Paul Fetzer a follow-up question:

Q: What have you done in the past year to increase cow comfort on your dairy?

A: We completed the remodel of our transition barn from mattresses to sand. The conversion allowed us to tear out all of the old stall decks and curbs. We increased stall length by 6 inches by pouring new curbs and deep-bedded with sand. This has greatly increased the comfort and traction for close-up and post-fresh animals.

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Stray voltage, or “leakage current” as we prefer to call it, is an issue becoming more prevalent in the dairy industry.

As our industry utilizes more electronic equipment that increases the efficiency of our operations and reduces operating costs, such as variable speed drives (VSDs), electronic ballast lighting, variable speed fans and ventilation, we are actually increasing the sources of possible stray voltage.

Faulty wiring, defective equipment, bad connections and electrical arcs are also sources that may cause stray voltage on a facility at any time.

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It is not uncommon to open the hood of a new diesel pickup and see a slew of wires and hoses and underneath it all something which resembles an engine.

What happened to the good old days when we used to actually be able to see the engine and be able to work on it when we popped the hood? How did we get to this point with the light-duty diesel industry?

Let’s take a step back in time when Ford and GM and Chrysler introduced their light-duty diesel engines. The year was 1983 and the engine was the 6.2-liter diesel.

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Most of us remember the medical emergency system commercials from the 1990s with the elderly lady calling out “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Would you ever receive these types of calls from within your freestall barns if your cows had some type of medical emergency system from which they could call you? Unfortunately, in many older freestall barns, these calls would probably be fairly frequent.

Generally, cows prefer to lunge forward when rising from a resting position. Think about how a cow gets up when she is on pasture. Their behavior in freestalls should be similar to this.

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Summary: This March 2011 article detailed facilities, bedding and cow cooling on four New York operations. Skip Hardie of Hardie Farms, Ryan Akin of Hemdale Farms, Dan Westfall of Aurora Ridge Farm and Mary Young of Young Farm talked about how they put cow comfort first.

[Click here or on the image above right to see the full list of the Top 25 articles of 2011. Click here to see the list from 2010.]

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The world today seems to be moving at an increasingly rapid pace. Agriculture has seen more challenging times to remain profitable and sustainable. This pressure can affect our decisions when designing, building or modifying dairy facilities that can influence cow comfort.

Providing adequate cow comfort has a direct impact on milk production, health, reproduction, longevity and profitability. This article will focus on some of the key areas including stall design, bedding, overcrowding and flooring.

Let’s put this more into perspective. An average adult male requires approximately 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day for maintenance of life.

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