Measuring the true value of dairy cow comfort

The cow’s environment is a major component in performance – but cow comfort and lying time is still often undervalued. British Dairying magazine caught up with CowAlert customer, Crichton Royal Farm in Dumfries to discover how a mattress upgrade has lifted their daily individual yields by up to two litres!

Investing in cow comfort could boost milk yields by 1.0 to 1.6 litres per cow for every additional hour of lying time over 10 hours, according to industry experts. Any investment is a risk – but, extrapolated over the herd, the value of increased cow comfort can be substantial.

Hugh McClymont, Farm Manager of SRUC’s Crichton Royal Farm, proposed to invest £16,000 in cow comfort but had to ensure this aligned with both the farm’s research and commercial objectives.

In September 2019, the herd was just meeting the minimum target lying time – averaging 10.07 hours per day.

Cow Mattress upgrade

Upon inspection of the beds, wear and tear was obvious. “The dairy housing was modernised in 2005 with the installation of 200 Cow Comfort cubicles, followed by Wilson Agri Original Pasture Mats in 2008,” says Mr McClymont. “After 11 years of heavy use, the original mats had become compacted and hard – making them much less effective at cushioning and comfort.” Following discussions with cow welfare experts, Hugh decided to invest in the cow beds to improve comfort and welfare.

CowAlert Assistance

“The rear leg sensors from IceRobotics record behavioural movement that is fed back to our CowAlert software. This gives us the lying times of groups and individuals as well as oestrus detection, lameness status and mobility scores,” says Mr McClymont

Lying time has increased by an average of 1.5 hours – and up to two hours in some groups. “The results in yield are exceptional, with an average two-litre increase over the period since the upgrade,” explains Hugh.

This is generating an additional income of £168 per cow per lactation. That is a herd return of £30,240 on an investment of about £16,000.

Lameness and lesion scores have also improved with 28% fewer treatments to date.

“Improved lying times mean that the cows are off their feet for longer. We know this helps reduce lameness and yields are less likely to be inhibited by discomfort.” Says Mr McClymont

Justifying investment

Justin Birch, product manager at IceRobotics, explains how our technology helps. “Farmers can use this information to make changes that are going to improve performance and cow health. Improving lying times and detecting early lameness is also going to reduce veterinary costs and loss of production.”

To read the full article by The British Dairying Magazine click here. Alternatively, contact us to discover how CowAlert can make a difference to your business.

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