GUIDING PRINCIPLE: COMFORT
Making our cows comfortable is our priority. The only challenge? Learning what “comfortable” is to cows.
THE BEST REST POSSIBLE
What do cows prefer in bedding? Some of it is easy to guess: comfortable to lie on, clean, and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But we’ve also learned they prefer a surface that provides uniform support and that gives them confident footing.
MILKING THE COWS
We use rotary milking parlors to keep things moving. Every 7 seconds, a new cow steps on, and in 5–6 minutes is milked. Each cow has an RFID tag, so the computer knows which cow is in which stall, and how much milk she’s producing. We use this information to help make sure she’s healthy. Each cow is milked 3 times a day, producing about 7 gallons total.
HOW DO YOU KEEP THINGS CLEAN?
It takes five workers to run the milking parlor. Antiseptic spray is applied to each cow’s teats, then cleaned off and dried, before milking. The milk is immediately filtered and cooled to 35 degrees, and pumped directly into a milk tanker. And the entire milking parlor is given a top-down cleaning every 8 hours.
A GOOD, WELL-ROUNDED MEAL
We feed our cows what’s called a “Total Mix Ration” or “TMR.” Each day, they eat about 100 lbs. of this mix of corn, corn silage, soybean meal, hay and straw. The cows have access to water whenever they want. And we also give them micronutrients like vitamins.
ISN’T PASTURE FEEDING BETTER?
Because our herd is so large, we need to utilize our land, water, and energy more efficiently. For example, we’d need over 30,000 acres of pasture land to feed our cows!
That’s why we chose TMR to ensure our cows get the nutrition they need. We source as many ingredients for our TMR recipe as we can from local farms to reduce transportation and lower cost, resulting in lowering our environmental impact and supporting the local farming community—while also giving our herd a full, balanced diet.
Giving birth stimulates cows to make milk. There is always about a year between pregnancies (like people, cow pregnancies last about 9 months).
Whenever possible, birthing is natural and unassisted, although we do observe to make sure everything’s going safely. When the time comes, we move the mother cow to a special needs barn for closer observation. After the birth, we move the calf to a separate pen for safety—adult cows aren’t always good about sharing their space with little ones.
HOW WE USE ANTIBIOTICS
When a cow gets sick, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics. We only use antibiotic drugs when needed, and at the doctor’s direction.
AREN’T ANTIBIOTICS BAD?
Antibiotics are good for helping a sick cow, but not so good for milk. When one of our cows is sick and on antibiotics, that cow’s milk is discarded. We wait for the treatment to run its course, until the antibiotics are out of the cow’s system. We believe the humane thing to do is treat a sick cow, and sometimes antibiotics are the best choice.
HOW WE USE HORMONES
We use hormones to make artificial insemination more efficient. To maintain production and keep costs down, we need to impregnate 250 cows per week.
DO THE HORMONES HARM THE QUALITY OF YOUR MILK?
No. The hormones we use are not transferred to the cows’ milk. It’s a safe choice that keeps our cows healthy, our milk safe and our productivity at the level necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the world’s population.