The dry period is the last time for the cow to gain extra strength for calving and milk production. This period of 'maternity leave' also determines her health and performance as a fresh cow. "Dry cows should therefore be pampered." says Rudmer Hilverda. He is regularly in discussion with dairy farmers about renovation or new-build plans. The layout of the barn for the dry cows is an important point of attention.
Extra space provides comfort
High-pregnancy cows easily weigh 100 kg more. These extra kilos are also reflected in the width of the animal. Dry cows therefore need extra space, both at the feed fence and in the cubicle. Hilverda recommends a feeding place width of 75 cm and a cubicle width of 130 to as much as 135 cm. "Please note that these sizes are aimed at an average Holstein cow. It is important to adapt the barn design in general to the herd. We advise all dairy farmers to measure their cows first, before plans are finalized." The walking areas in the barn for the dry cows should also be roomy. This way, even the low ranking animals can walk around stress-free and stand at the feed fence.
'Weightless' floating on a waterbed
In modern dairy farms dry cows are often housed in the same barn as the dairy cows. This therefore does not change the environment for the animals when they are made dry, and prevents additional stress. The bedding for the dry cows is often the same as that of the dairy cows. Still, it doesn't hurt to add some extra comfort here as well. "For example, install a water bed for the dry cows." Once lying down, the cow floats on a layer of water. The waterbed does not hinder the cow's blood circulation, and she therefore does not experience any pressure points. In addition, a waterbed is particularly hygienic and the cleaning and filling takes comparatively little work.
One last tip to increase the circulation and comfort of the ladies. "Also install a cow brush at the dry cows. This provides distraction and exercise in addition to comfort".
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