Comfortable cows important to dairy owners

Freedom new Mexico: Tony Bullocks Dairy cows on Greenfield Park Dairy are provided with special mats in the milking parlor, providing extra comfort to for the standing cows during milking.

Argen Duncan

Cows have regular pedicures. Really.

Dairy owners use pedicures — hoof trimming — along with a variety of other methods to keep their cows comfortable, and thus giving milk.

Michelle Heavyside, co-owner of Greenfield Park Dairy on N.M. 202, said keeping the cows happy and healthy is in both the animals’ and dairy operators’ best interest because a comfortable cow produces milk, the goal of the dairy.

“I mean, they’re really pampered,” Heavyside said. “Yes, they’re dairy cows and they do work, but we do our best to make sure they’re happy while they’re working.”

Each week, Greenfield Park Dairy cows get a veterinary checkup and have their hooves trimmed. Dairy owners also make sure the cattle’s feed rations are balanced and their pens are cleaned, Heavyside said.

To help the cows cope with heat, she said, dairy personnel keep fans on them.

“They love to be milked,” Heavyside said, adding that her family’s cows are milked at regular times so they don’t have the discomfort of over-full udders.

The cattle are sprayed down for cleanliness before being milked and have rubber mats to walk on in the barn. After cows are milked, Heavyside said, dairy workers put lotion on their udders.

The Heavysides teach their employees to treat the cattle well, she said, and no one on the dairy is allowed to yell at a cow.

“On our dairy farm, it’s zero tolerance for someone who doesn’t love an animal,” Heavyside said.

Brian Harris, Southwest member service manager for Dairy Farmers of America in Clovis, said different dairies do different things to keep cows comfortable, depending on the management’s view of what works best and the part of the country where dairy is located.

“All of our farmers around this area are used to heat,” he said.

They supply all of the cool, clean water cows want. Most have shades for the cattle, as well as fans in the holding pens where cows go before milking, and possibly in feed lanes or on the shades, Harris said. Dairy owners may also have misters to spray water on the cattle, particularly in feeding areas.

Also, Harris said dairy owners offer food to their cattle in the evenings during hot weather.

“They won’t eat in the daytime in the heat,” he said. “They just won’t get out in the sun.”

Dairies are built for cow comfort, he said, with windbreaks, shelters for bad weather and slopes to drain away water so cows don’t have to stand in it.

“A cow is really just a big human — they want what you want,” Harris said.