Cow comfort: 7) Herd manager
A farmer is trained to get the highest yields from the lowest costs, to make a good profit. Experience, education and training all emphasise this.
But most training emphasises only direct costs and how to influence them. Training on cow comfort or on raising young stock is less common.
Average European dairy farm expenses:
Source: EDF-Report 2001; Cost comparison analysis. Time series analysis. Database. European Dairy Farmers. Lellens, Frankfurt, Braunschweig.
A farmer expects a lot from his cows. They have to produce a lot of milk, deliver a calf once a year and have minimal health problems. However, you can compare cows with high performance sportsmen. Even the very best competitors can’t do well without good conditions. Cows cannot deliver on the farmer’s expectations without living in optimal conditions. The farmer has to create an environment in which the cows feel happy and comfortable, so the cows can deliver what the farmer expects. Working with comfortable and healthy cows will certainly pay off with more expectations satisfied and more profitable farming.
To achieve all this, the farmer or farm manager will collect and assess all available data to influence the management strategy. It is easiest to assess hard data on direct costs for food, feedstuff and machinery. The indirect costs like missed heat, culled cows or bad climate for the herd are more difficult to measure. As a cow needs at least two years to grow from calf to cow and makes no contribution to profit during this time, she clearly needs at least three lactations for the farmer to break even just on the cost of raising the cow. It takes more than three lactations to generate profit. Therefore a successful farmer aiming to maximise benefits from each cow will look at the cows differently.