Happy Cows Make More Nutritious Milk

July 26th 2016

Happy Cows Make More Nutritious Milk

Research at he University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, has confirmed what has been common knowledge amongst conscientious dairy farmers. Cows that are well looked after give substantially better returns, and have lower veterinary costs. Cows given a daily dose of the ‘happy hormone’ Serotonin produce milk with higher nutritional content.

Wisconsin is home to 1.28 million dairy cows, with an average farm size of 130, and 96% of dairy farms are family owned.  As farms are consolidated worldwide, the increase in farm size means greater stress is placed on the dairy cow.

happy-cowIntensive dairy farming means cows are increasingly kept indoors on hard floors for part or all the year, with less and less time spent in out in pasture. Because cows spend a large part of their time indoors on their feet, there is a greater risk of slip injury and of developing hoof lesions, sole ulcers, laminitis and digital dermatitis all leading to chronic lameness. These conditions are exacerbated by the lack of exercise, poor nutrition, inadequate ventilation and unhygienic housing conditions. Wider or open stalls will encourage cows to rest and take the weight off their feet.

Unhygienic conditions are also responsible for other infectious diseases, most notably mastitis. Mastitis is probably the greatest single factor impacting on dairy productivity. In the UK, 70 cases of mastitis occur in a herd of 100 cows every year. Mastitis is highly infective and happens as a result of bacterial invasion of the udder through the teat canals. Mastitis causing pathogens are primarily environmental bacteria present on the farm, which can rapidly infect the herd by cross contamination through dirty bedding and contaminated milking machines.

Both mastitis and lameness can cause a loss of productivity, with a decrease in volumes and quality of milk produced. Milk with higher cell counts fetching a poor return, reduced shelf life and lower nutritional content, particularly Calcium. Dr Rubinah Chowdhary, Quat-Chem’s Scientific Director said “Hypoglycaemia is a problem that commonly occurs at the onset of lactation and during various metabolic imbalances, and can result in a host of disorders including a negative impact on the immune function. While the endocrinology of serotonin secretion is complex and multifactorial, the research by Weaver S.R. et. al. has shown a positive correlation between serotonin and calcium levels during early lactation. The administration of serotonin precursors might well reduce hypoglycaemia and improve the general health of the dairy cow. However, a more holistic and sustainable approach to ‘happy cows’ in the long term, might be to address the underlying causes of stress.”

“Avoidance of overcrowding in animal housing, good hygiene conditions and manure management, with adequate ventilation to prevent accumulation on ammonia and other gases will help enormously” said Dr Chowdhary. “Clean, comfortable bedding to prevent exposure of the udder to contamination with particular attention to hygiene in the milking parlour. Milking times are ideal for assessing the condition of teats and hooves and to take appropriate action. This includes reviewing regimes and products used for pre- and post-milking, and hoof-dipping”.

Quat-Chem manufactures a full range of hygiene products for the dairy industry.  To see how we can help safeguard teat and hoof health, visit our dairy hygiene pages or contact our friendly team of experts.   

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