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Many people who keep dairy cows provide the best in creature comforts. Some use sand bedding, old mattresses for cows to rest on, and even bedding made of recycled computer paper.
Marcia Endres is a professor of dairy cattle production at the University of Minnesota. She says research indicates that efforts to make cows more comfortable can make them healthier and increase productivity. Cows appreciate a cushy place to lie down and get off their feet. Resting time is essential for performance.
"Probably we'd be looking at having cows on pasture during the summer. Pastures are a very comfortable surface," she says. "If they have a barn, you would have stalls, and those stalls would have to be dimensioned to the animal can fit comfortably in the stall, and can express a natural behavior of rising and lying down without having to hit any structures or being hindered in any way."
Cows don't have any problem walking around a grassy pasture, but they will if they get too hot. Heat is very hard on them.
"Their comfort zone is about 40, 45-degrees. So when it gets to be 70,80,90-degrees, a cow is really stressed out. So, I think it's important for cows outside to make sure they have a good supply of water. And another thing that's important outside is shade," says Endres. "Either using trees, or having a portable shade structure that can be moved on different areas of the pasture."
Another high stress factor is noise. A soft voice and quiet demeanor will pay off at milking time.