March 22, 2018
A happy cow is a productive cow
Cow/Calf behavior – while it might be subtle – plays an important role in the health of your herd. And your building can play a critical role in how your animals behave – around each other and alone.
Animal behavior is a function of animal density, genetics, previous animal handling experiences, pecking order, competition for food and water, as well as interactions between these factors. When animals are placed in close proximity, these factors must be recognized and managed. Some cows will not adapt well to close proximity and may need to be managed in a different manner or marketed. For example, dairy breeds have been selected for intensive management and tend to adapt better to confinement than range beef cows. Similarly, there will be breeds, and genetic lines within breeds, that will more readily adapt to close proximity than others.
First, look at competition for food and water. Selection of a feed bunk is typically based on economics, but several other factors need to be considered. The largest feed bunks typically have a throat height of approximately 22 inches that work well for mature cows fed fluffy, high forage diets. For young cattle, weanlings, replacement heifers, throat height should be 12 inches (maximum 18 inches). It makes sense to divide your herd into age/size groups to minimize stress associated with food competition. Does your building allow for such segregation?
Second, consider the amount of space for each animal. Is your barn big enough for your herd? Is the space easily to clean and maintain? Your building needs to be flexible and Summit Livestock designers have the experience to guide your facility planning in the right direction. Space requirements for cows in a confinement barn are largely dependent on cow size and presence of a calf. For a small cow with calf, 85 to 90 square feet is a minimum, while a large cow with calf realistically needs a minimum of 120 square feet (100 for the cow plus 20 for the calf). The management of your herd will be easier if you can adjust pen size dependent on which parts of your herd are using it and when.
Do you have more questions that are not covered in this article? If you need help designing and planning, please contact Summit Livestock Facilities at 800.213.0567 or click here to email us. If you are ready to get a price, click here to request a quote and a member of our customer engagement team will help you determine the next steps of your project.