Cows in the news July 30, 2012Posted by Angelique in Animal welfare.
Tags: agriculture, animal ag, Animal welfare, cows, Food ethics
Some cows are getting more comfortable these days, some less. The “less” is easy to explain: the same heat wave that’s making all of us sweat is making cows, who don’t sweat anywhere but their noses and can’t dissipate heat very well, miserable. Cows start feeling the burn at about 80 degrees, so you can imagine what day after day in triple digits does to them.
Which gives us yet another argument for allowing cows to graze pasture rather than keeping them confined in feedlots, as most conventional dairies and beef finishers do. Pastures with shaded or breezy spots or watering holes allow cattle to cool themselves off. (Have to be careful about the water, though: thousands of pounds of cow mucking around in a riverbed can turn a pristine creek into a foul mess.) Bare dirt lots sectioned off as feedlots give cows no respite from the beating sun. Compounding the problem, sunlight reflecting off the dirt or concrete floors of feedlots warms things up even more. Barns with partial roof cover and misters to spray the cows with water can help.
While Midwestern cows are struggling through the dog days of summer, though, their cousins in the Pacific Northwest are living it up. Several Oregon farms have recently installed waterbeds to allow their cows to recline in comfort. Laugh all you want, but lameness is one of the biggest problems affecting modern dairy cows, who have to support their increasingly heavy bodies on unforgiving concrete. Straw bedding gets wet and dirty; sand bedding is expensive and leaves farmers with the problem of disposing of used sand. Enter the waterbed. If you drive by a dairy farm and glimpse a bunch of cows bouncing up and down inside the barn, you’ll know why.