Daily, a dairy farm experiences miracles ….miracles of life. On average, 10 newborn calves enter this world on our farms each day. And as they enter the world, our experienced people are right there, doing all they can to help the babies get their new life off to the best start possible! This care continues as they grow, but the first step in caring for all of our animals is to provide them with clean, comfortable housing.
Did you know that a cow sleeps only 30 minutes per day, but rests for 14 hours per day? What a life!
Since a cow rests so much, comfortable beds are of utmost importance for keeping our cows happy. Believe it or not, each stall actually has its own mattress. On top of the mattress, some of our barns use sand for bedding. Sand is a great resource because it is aseptic, so harmful bacteria can’t grow in it; keeping it extra clean. It’s also neat because then our cows can feel like they’re simply relaxing on the beach!
At some of our other barns, recycled paper is used for the bedding. This is not only comfortable for the cows, but an excellent way to be kind to the environment.
In the free-stall barns, the alleys are scraped free of manure and stalls are raked clean three times each day. This occurs during each of our three milkings. New bedding is added to the stalls every week.
Then, for the VIP cows – the Mamas about to give birth and the young calves – good old fashioned straw is the best choice.
Our free-stall barns simulate the best aspects of a pasture environment. The barns help make the cows comfortable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whereas Mother Nature is not always as kind. In the barn, they move around freely. They can lay down, get up for water or food or to walk around and socialize whenever they’d like. Cows actually are quite social. They naturally form large herds, make friends and bond to some members and avoid others.
On hot summer days they have shade, fans, cool breezes and sometimes sprinklers to keep them comfortable. On cold, stormy days, the barn walls are brought down, giving ample protection from the wind and elements. The moderated temperatures are key to ideal cow comfort.
A special perk included in some of our newer barns are the automatic cow brushes. You’d be surprised to see how many cows really love to groom themselves and hang out for a little back scratch. You should stop by and check it out sometime. It’s usually a favorite scene of our visitors…after watching the miracle of a calf being born, of course!
In our free-stall barns, the cows have constant access to food, water and a clean place to sleep. And they surely need to have lots of water nearby because they drink 30 to 50 gallons of water every day. That’s about the same as a bathtub full of water! The water tubs are drained and scrubbed cleaned once each week.
Since each cow eats about 120 pounds of feed each day and Willow Bend has 5 special nutrient rich recipes for the different ages and stages of the animals; simply feeding all the heifers and cows is a full time job. Any remaining feed is scraped out of the way and fresh new feed is offered two times each day.
The stanchions that these cows are poking their head through only close on them if the farmer needs to hold them there for a moment to give them special care.
Cows get exercise daily when they get up to eat, drink and walk to the milking parlor 3 times each day. They get up about 16 times a day to get what they need.