Meeting cow lying time needs
Winter conditions can affect cows’ ability to get the minimum amount of daily lying time they need to be healthy and comfortable.
Kiwi dairy farmers are raising the bar when it comes to down cow care. We know this because, over the last two years, vets have been speaking to farmers at DairyNZ’s Calving Smart events about simple, practical and effective approaches to down cows. And it’s evident that farmers are adopting these approaches and delivering better welfare outcomes for their cows.
DairyNZ’s farmer survey shows nearly 20 percent of farms are now providing a dedicated down cow area, and 80 percent of farmers are moving down cows to shelter or providing shelter.
On one farm, down cows are transported to straw bedding that’s laid on a heated concrete pad in a calf shed bay. This keeps the cows warm so they can use their energy elsewhere. We’ve also seen good alternatives to hip clamps, with slings and even a water bath being used to lift cows.
We also know preventative measures for down cows are now well established. Most farmers have a solid approach to pre- and post- calving supplementation and body condition score targets.
Going a step further
Research shows high-quality care significantly increases a down cow’s chances of recovery from their initial cause of going down, and from further complications. However, research also shows that down cow care has little benefit unless we implement all the factors discussed in this article. In short, there’s no point taking shortcuts.
Think about what we want when we’re sick: somewhere to lie that’s comfortable, dry and warm, some palatable food, and lots of fresh water. For cows, it’s pretty much the same.
The best place for a down cow is under a roof or well-sheltered area. But if you can’t provide a dedicated down cow area, some easy ways to care for cows in the paddock include using cow covers,
putting out a few hay bales to provide shelter from the weather, and regularly rolling the animal to shift sides.
Another important care factor is the use of anti-inflammatories alongside standard treatment procedures. Half of farmers have indicated they’re administering anti-inflammatories to down cows, which makes cows feel much better. If you haven’t considered this practice, have a chat with your vet for more information.
Down cows should always be a priority, even in spring when your farm team’s time is stretched. Putting in that little bit extra will give your cows a much better chance of making it back to milking.
Checklist of down cow care factors:
– Provide shelter or cover
– Roll the cow regularly
– Palatable feed and water in reach
– Regularly strip out milk
– Make a prompt decision if treatment isn’t working or you can’t provide good care
– Call the vet if the cow is down longer than 48 hours
Learn more about preventing and managing down cows at dairynz.co.nz/down-cows
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