Cow comfort is paramount in a productive and profitable dairy. Observation and experience show that cows housed in a comfortable environment produce more milk and generally live healthier longer lives, meaning that focusing on cow comfort is beneficial to both economics and animal welfare.
Some of the key aspects of cow comfort are: Ventilation, Cow Cooling, Stalls, Flooring, and Lighting.
Ventilation is an important aspect of an animal’s well-being. The goal of ventilation is to provide fresh air uniformly throughout the dairy shelter, so all animals receive adequate quantities and qualities. Proper ventilation means moving outside air through designated air inlets and evenly distributing it throughout the shelter. Incoming air mixes with air contaminants (moisture, dust, pathogens, manure gases, and heat) in the shelter and is discharged, as shown in the image below. Fans hanging over stalls or alleys do not provide air exchange and are not a substitute for open sidewalls and endwalls, rather these fans help with Cow Cooling.
- Natural or Tunnel Ventilation of Freestall Structures: What is Right for Your Dairy Facility? - Curt A. Gooch (2001)
- Environmental Control for Today’s Milking Center - Curt A. Gooch (2001)
- Ventilation Strategies for Environmental Control of Modern Milking Centers - Curt A. Gooch and William G. Bickert (1999)
- Effective Natural Ventilation for New Smaller Freestall Barns - Curt A. Gooch (2004)
- Effective Natural Ventilation Strategies - Curt A. Gooch (2003)
- Ventilation of Pre-Weaned Calf Barns Jennifer S. Bockhahn and Curt A. Gooch (2018)
- Guidance on Evaluating Calf Barns Relative to Ventilation Needs - Jennifer S. Bockhahn and Curt A. Gooch (2018)
- Tube Fan Ventilation for Pre-Weaned Calf Barns - Jennifer S. Bockhahn and Curt A. Gooch (2018)
- Tunnel Ventilation for Tie Stall Dairy Barns - Penn State Extension: John Tyson, Dan McFarland, and Robert Graves (2014)
- In-Field Quantification of Fan Performance in Tunnel-Ventilated Freestall Barns - Katherine Lankering, Curt Gooch, and Scott Inglis (2004)
- Tunnel Ventilation for Freestall Barns - Curt A. Gooch (2000)
- Economics of Tunnel Ventilation for Freestall Barns - Curt A. Gooch, Micheal B. Timmons and Jason Karszes (2000)
- Application of Time Integrated Value (TIV) Environmental Control Technology to Dairy Barns - Curt A. Gooch and Michael B. Timmons (2002)
- Time-Integrated Value Environmental Control Technology: Step Up to the Times. This Modern Ventilation and Cow-Cooling System Controller Helps Improve Cow Environment - Curt A. Gooch and Michael B. Timmons (2001)
Under high heat and humidity conditions, cows struggle to dispose of metabolic heat as well as heat absorbed from their surroundings. If the cow is unable to dispose of enough heat, her core body temperature will rise. This rising body temperature, due to stressful environmental conditions, triggers a reduction in milk production, appetite, and overall health and an increase in respiration rate and sweating rate. Higher producing cows, which generate more body heat, are more susceptible to an increase in temperature. Due to these factors, cow cooling is an important consideration in cow comfort.
- Key Considerations in Fan Cooling Dairy Cows - Curt A. Gooch and Dan F. McFarland (March 2017)
- Environmental Stress in Dairy Cattle - Kristy Perano (2017)
- Part 1 - How a Cow Cools Herself
- Part 2 - Ways to Quantify Environmental Stress
- Part 3 - Thresholds for Environmental Heat Stress
- Tools and Technologies to Assess Heat Stress on Commercial Dairies - Todd Bilby (2015)
- Production and Physiological Responses of Heat-Stressed Lactating Dairy Cattle to Conductive Cooling Kristen Perano (2015)
- Impact of Heat Stress On Reproductive Function And Performance Of Dairy Cattle Julio Giordano (2015)
- Heat Stress Abatement Techniques for Dairy Cattle Dan McFarland (2015)
- Aussie Cows on Sustainable Farms Still Feeling the Heat with Extreme Events Melissa Balas (2015)
- Heat Flux and Condensation Rate in Conductive Cooling Systems for Thermally Stressed Dairy Cattle Kristen Perano (2015)
- Use of Udder Skin Temperature as a Heat Stress Indicator in Lactating Dairy Cattle Kristen Perano (2015)
- Fan Cooling Dairy Cows; Questions and Answers - Curt A. Gooch and Dan F. McFarland (2011)
- Supplemental Cooling to Provide Heat Stress Relief for Northeast Dairy Cows — You Can’t Afford Not to Do It! - Curt A. Gooch (2000)
- Fan Cooling Dairy Cows - Curt A. Gooch (2000)
Whether the barn is a freestall or tiestall cows are most productive when they spend the majority of their time only on three productive actions:
- Lying down
One of the most controllable of these is getting the cow to spend more time in the stall. Time spent lying down can be increased by making sure the stalls are:
- The correct size
- Bedded correctly
- Kept clean
Manure Solids Bedding
- Use of Post-Digested Separated Manure Solids as Freestall Bedding: A Case Study - Curt Gooch, Joseph Hogan, Nancy Glazier, and Robert Noble (2009)
- Are solids a solid bedding?
- Dairy Manure Solids Cut Bedding Costs
Many aspects of a dairy cow housing barn influence the overall environment experienced by the cows. One of the major aspects is the flooring system employed. Cows housed in modern freestall barns should spend 10 to 12 hours per day on their feet. Floors are designed to provide:
- Confident and comfortable footing
- Dry walking surfaces
- Durable and structurally sound construction
Answers to many questions on flooring can be found in the following resource:
- Considerations in Flooring - Curt A. Gooch (2013)
The design and use of lighting in dairy facilities is one way of increasing cow performance, particularly through the use of photoperiod manipulation or long-day lighting (LDL). This practice of designing a lighting system to artificially extend the duration of light that a lactating cow is exposed to require the consideration of both facility specific variables, and luminaire specific variables.
The goal is to supplement lactating cows to experience 16 to 18 hours of light. The cow response and economic analysis of this practice have been studied, at least minimally. This page is set up as a resource for this information on lighting in dairy barns.
- Net Present Value Economic Analysis Model for Adoption of Photoperiod Manipulation in Lactating Cow Barns - Roberta L. Crill, John J. Hanchar, Curt A. Gooch, P.E., and Steven T. Richards (2002)
- Lighting System Considerations and Design Options for Application of Photoperiod Management for Freestall and Tie Stall Barns - Curt A. Gooch and D.C. Ludington (2002)