Brushing up on Cattle Care

Date: 16/05/19

Brushing up on Cattle Care

We all enjoy sprucing up a little every now and then, before we hang out with our friends, meet new people and decide what we are going to do for the day. It makes a pleasant break from the grind of the nine to five and the endless cycle of kids and work. And it turns out we’re not alone, because dairy cattle have been shown to enjoy exactly the same things!

According to new research from Scotland’s Rural College, both the welfare and productivity of dairy cows are significantly improved by free choice, strong social groups, interaction with people and even a spot of grooming here and there.

The study, by Alistair Lawrence, Marie Haskell and Belinda Vigors, combined a literature review with first hand interviews with thirteen dairy farmers, and it came up with some surprising results. The team postulates that ‘positive animal welfare is <about> more than prevention of the unpleasant (e.g. pain, fear) and involves thinking about how to allow animals to have positive experiences on a regular, perhaps daily, basis’.

Of course, Kilco have all the animal health products you need for the ‘prevention of the unpleasant’, including a comprehensive range of detergents and disinfectants to maintain the highest standards of disease control and biosecurity. We’re there from the start with First Milk Calf Colostrum and Rotaboost, and we help maintain animal welfare throughout their lives, from formaldehyde-free footbaths, to chlorine free cleaners for milking equipment.

However, according to the study, this is just part of the story. To maintain the highest levels of animal welfare, your herd also need a little more from their farmers. The research shows that cows do best when they have freedom of choice, enabling them to come and go as they please with robotic milking systems to serve them when they are ready. Cows also benefit from established social groups, with no unfamiliar animals, and enjoy positive human interactions.

The most amusing find of all is that cows enjoy grooming themselves. Animals with access to a grooming brush undertook regular self-grooming, suggesting that they find it a pleasant and enjoyable experience. More importantly, a 2016 study by Mandel et al found that brush use actually increases milk yield under some circumstances, as well as benefitting behaviour, physiology and animal health.

As is often the case in these situations, the study found that in practice, farmers were instinctively way ahead of the scientific research. Many of those interviewed are already applying these practices, intuitively knowing they are good for their herd.

You don’t have to massage your cows and play them classical music, as if they were Kobe beef, but it is becoming clear that there is much more to cattle care than just providing food, shelter and animal health products. If we provide them with a good life too, they will reward us with improved health and increased productivity.

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