Dr. Nigel Cook from the University of Wisconsin describes the dairy cow as a workaholic because she spends her adult life functioning at 3x her maintenance energy cost. Humans would only accomplish this with extensive exercise like jogging six or more hours per day. Since these hard-working cows put my exercise and energy needs to shame, let’s look at what she needs during the day to be successful.

Dr. Cook and his team analyzed time budgets for freestall cows and found some items to be non-negotiable:

  • Eating for 4.4 hours per day
  • Drinking 0.4 hours per day

What does she do the rest of the day?

Part of the day she is out of the pen, either in the holding pen, parlor, or walking back and forth. When she is in the pen she is either:

  • Standing in the alley: Average time = 2.4 hours per day
  • Standing in a stall: Average time = 2.9 hours per day
  • Lying in a stall: Average time = 11.3 hours per day (divided into 7 visits that last 1.2 hours on average)

So, what do we do as dairy managers that mess with the cow’s day?

1. Prolonged time spent milking

2. Competition for stalls due to overstocking

3. Poor stall design

4. Inadequate heat abatement

5. Excessive time spent in lock-ups

What will we see if we mess with the cow’s day?

  • Increased lameness
  • Slug feeding
  • Decreased milk production

Take a minute to write down what the day of your 10 DIM cow and 60 DIM cow looks like. How much time do they spend away from the pen, in lock-ups, out of feed, or with other disruptions? How can you help your workaholic cows perform their best and get their much needed rest every day?

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