How many hours a day are your cows not in their home pen? Taking a closer look into your milking herd’s daily schedule is an important management step. An article by Lisa Holden in the Penn State Dairy Digest dives into the negative impacts of cows not following the ideal itinerary for their day. More than 3.7 hours away from their pen leads to cows not reaching their maximum performance level, research from a study in the Journal of Dairy Science shows.
Cows love routine and are content doing the same thing each day. They need to have their 24-hour day budgeted correctly with hours in the day allocated to certain activities to be the most productive. According to research by Grant and Albright, a cow (living in a freestall barn) prefers to spend its day with the following routine:
• 12 to 14 hours resting
• 3 to 5 hours eating
• 7 to 10 hours ruminating (while standing and lying)
• 30 minutes drinking water
• 2 to 3 hours of social interaction
• Leaving 2.5 to 3.5 hours for outside of the pen activities (milking)
If your cows are not following the above schedule very closely, they may not have enough time in their home pen for much needed rest and relaxation. Analyze the parlor flow and how well the cows move through the milking routine.
Changing parts of the routine that are slowing things down may improve the milking time, if your herd is spending too much time outside of their pen. Holden emphasized in her article that it is important to understand that time away from the pen includes the time when the first cow goes to get milked to when her herdmate is the last one to return back after that milking shift.
Elise Regusci grew up on her family's farm in Modesto, Calif. Regusci attends Cal Poly University, majoring in dairy science with an agricultural communication minor. On campus, she is the Los Lecheros Dairy Club Ag Council representative and a member of the Cal Poly dairy judging team. Regusci is the current Brown Swiss Youth Ambassador and is the 2017 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.