Animal welfare means making sure that all animals are provided the opportunity to grow long, healthy and happy lives. A happy cow is a productive cow, which is important to our business. Here are some of the aspects of our animal welfare program.
Cow comfort is vital to the success of our business. Therefore, caring for and pampering animals at Fertile Ridge Dairy is the responsibility of every employee, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. When cattle are able to rest comfortably, eat plenty of nutritious meals and have time to socialize, they are extremely happy creatures!
Whereas humans like variety and change of environment, cows enjoy routine. They like to eat the same food and do the same things at the same time every day. Sounds boring? Not to a cow! In fact, changing their daily routine actually puts stress on them; and stress leads to unhappiness.
Coincidentally, a typical cow’s day includes many of the same activities we engage in such as:
- Resting – Cows lay resting 12-14 hours per day – 6-8 of those hours are spent sleeping in free stalls. They are called “free stalls” because the cows can come and go as they please. Stalls are bedded plentifully and regularly with soft sand, providing a bed similar to that of a beach.
- Eating – Cows spend 3-5 hours per day eating up to 14 meals. In fact, cows at Fertile Ridge Dairy consume more than 110 pounds of feed and drink 25-50 gallons of water per day. Cows are fed a balanced diet with each meal or “ration” carefully formulated by a trained nutritionist.
- Socializing – Social interactions are important, which is why cattle live in group housing within our barns. Cows spend approximately 2-3 hours per day socializing (like estrus) and grooming themselves and one another.
- Milking – 1 hour per group milking shift, 3 times per day. Cows love to be milked! Visitors to the dairy often comment about how naturally the cows move to the milking parlor and how happy they look when they are there.
Like people, cows need proper medical care when it is needed. At Fertile Ridge Dairy, a veterinarian visits the farm on a weekly basis to check the health of all animals and provide special treatment to those in need. Sometimes, the veterinarian will prescribe medicines, administer treatments, assist with birthing and perform and occasional surgery.
Located within the barns are “hospital” areas where sick and injured animals can receive that extra attention and get back on their feet quickly and comfortably. We use medicines cautiously at Fertile Ridge Dairy and no milk from treated animals ever leaves the farm.
In 2002, we built a state-of-the-art dairy barn designed for optimal cow comfort. Cows are able to move freely within the barn to eat, drink, sleep and socialize as they choose. They drink water from the same well that we do, which is why it is so important that we keep the local water supply safe.
The cows rest and sleep in large stalls full of soft sand. We use sand because the cows love it! It would be like sleeping on a beach every day of the year!
A cow’s average body temperature is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit; therefore, you can imagine how hot they must get during the Summer months. To alleviate this stress, huge fans throughout the barn keep fresh air circulating and water sprinklers mist the cows when the heat and humidity are high.
Since the first cow entered our barn in 1903, our motto has been “take care of the cows and they will take care of our family.” This all starts with providing the right facilities, cow comfort, medical care and nutrition. A healthy and happy cow is a productive cow.