Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


US cows pampered - massages, waterbeds

30 May 2012, 10:24

 Chilton - Lucky, a 7-year-old dairy cow, had been walking with a limp for several weeks when veterinarian Sara Gilbertson was called. Instead of prescribing painkillers, Gilbertson tried an unusual new therapy - a chiropractic adjustment that included a full-length spinal massage.

Gilbertson rubbed the Holstein's spine by gently squeezing it from neck to tail, pausing to apply firm pressure to one hip and readjust several vertebrae. The cow stood in calm silence, moving only enough to reach another mouthful of hay.

Later, as Lucky reclined on a bed of sand, Gilbertson noted with satisfaction how relaxed and comfortable the animal seemed.

Cow comfort has become a key concern for America's farmers, who have known for generations that contented cows give more milk. The traditional techniques for keeping cows happy aren't complicated - feed them well, keep the temperature comfortable and give them room to move around.

But some dairy farmers are turning to a new array of creative options intended to keep cows as mellow - and productive - as possible.

Some farmers have installed waterbeds for their cows to rest on, while others play classical music. And some hire animal chiropractors to give older cows a tune up and correct minor issues in calves, all part of the effort to ensure maximum milk output.

Do the methods really work? There's no sound scientific data to back up the claims, but dairy farmers say they can see the difference with their own eyes - cows are giving more milk, the milk quality is improving and the herds seem to be enjoying the indulgences.

"It's kind of like how an athlete with a sprained ankle isn't as productive," said Larry Meyer, 36, whose parents own the dairy farm in Chilton, Wisconsin, where Lucky and another 115 dairy cows live. "If you can get a cow healthy and back to normal, it makes a difference in their productivity."

Cows can suffer injuries if they slip on a slick spot of concrete or get stepped on by another 680kg bovine, and some calves get their necks kinked during the birthing process. The injuries can cause pain when the animals stand, making them reluctant to jostle for food and leading to compensatory injuries. That, in turn, leads to less milk production.

Better milk

That's why farmers are willing to spend about $75 per session for a chiropractic adjustment.

"The cows tolerate it incredibly well," said Gilbertson, the veterinarian. "They may be apprehensive at first, until they figure out how good it feels."

Meyer didn't have specific figures on how much milk Lucky gave following her chiropractic treatments, but because her mother was the most productive cow in the herd, he wanted to make sure Lucky was in good shape.

While chiropractic care is reserved for injured cows, dairy farmers also are investing in healthy cows' happiness.

Richard Conrad installed $70 000 waterbeds on his farm in Grafton, Ohio, about a year ago. It took the 220 dairy cows a few months to adjust to the softer surface but now they seem to enjoy it, he said.

"They were real sceptical at first because it was real jiggly," said Conrad, 53, "but once they adapted they didn't look back. They just jump on and stay there."

The result has been milk with fewer impurities and in greater volume - cows that used to give about 36kg of milk per day now average about 40kg, Conrad said. However, he couldn't credit the waterbeds with all the improvement; he also upgraded ventilation in his barns and installed misting technology to keep the herd cool.

Dairy farmers commonly adjust air, temperature and lighting to keep cows happy. Some have also installed large rotating brushes that gently scratch the cows' backs and massage their faces and shoulders, said Marcia Endres, a University of Minnesota Extension dairy scientist.

And some dairy producers have employed even more unusual techniques, even in absence of scientific data that justifies their use. In Germany, for example, the Dortmund Concert Hall plays recordings of different classical pieces for specific cows. The hall then serves milk from the respective cows during live concerts featuring those same pieces.

"Which means you'll now be able to both listen to and taste the musical highlights," the hall says in one advertisement.

Dairy experts agree the concept is entertaining, if a bit of a logical stretch. They also agree that dairy farmers need to be careful about introducing new techniques - music, waterbeds, chiropractic care - into a herd that's already relatively comfortable.

"Cows are creatures of habit. They like things to stay the same," Endres said. "So many producers like to not introduce too much change. Cows just don't like a lot of weird things happening to them."

- AP

Tags animals

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...