Many veterinary consultants advise about cow comfort since it is important for health and productivity of the cow. Let us understand what is “Cow Comfort”?
We have domesticated cows for giving us milk and in turn we become responsible for giving them care and feed. The way we maintain the cow should be as per the needs of the cow, based on its physiology, individual behaviour, social behaviour and general welfare. Cow comfort really means that the house, feed and other facilities are designed for the cow and not the farmer. Unfortunately, in India, the understanding is different, we will build what we want and then force the cow into it. The ultimate aim is to minimize stress in the animal’s environment in order to maximize productive capability. Stress to the cow robs her of potential milk production and health. In simple terms when the facilities and management is dedicated to achieve least stress to the cow, we can claim that the cow will be in comfort.
Farmers often design the facilities and management to suit to their needs and comforts often compromising cow welfare. Cows are known to be social animal that means they love being in group, socializing and communicating with each other. If the animals are tied with a short leash individually, cow comfort would be lost. The first requirement of cow comfort is to keep them lose all the time, except, maybe while milking. If a cow is comfortable, it need not be tied even for milking, because getting udder evacuated of milk is in the interest and health of cow. Modern cows have been bred for yielding high milk hence they spend the day and night in eating and drinking, ruminating, resting, social interaction. For getting maximum from cows, the farmer should ensure that proper facilities for these physiological functions are provided. The second important element of cow comfort is ‘Voluntary Behaviour’, which means the cows are allowed to do what and when they like and the farmer except for milking routine does not enforce anything as per his or her convenience. For example, providing water for drinking twice as per the timings fixed by the farmer is against cow comfort, it should be available to cow whenever she feels thirsty, just like human. The feed should be available for eating whenever she feels hungry and not as per the routine fixed by the farmer.
The farmer should recognize that cow is an individual having needs different than his own, and hence cows should be provided facilities as per its requirements and not as per the whims and understanding of the farmer. In this series of mini-articles, different authors will cover a variety of topics on cow comfort and how it can be ensured. Please don’t think providing cow comfort needs a lot of money. It can be provided with whatever funds are available, the only difference is the designs and plans are made keeping your cow in mind and not yourself. Please remember cow comfort is a necessity and not an option!