Cows are routine animals. Feeding, drinking, ruminating, moving... Their activities hardly vary. Six clearly identified interdependent needs govern their lives. Any misbehaviour has a cause and can have an effect. So be alert if a cow changes her habits!
9 to 14 meals a day, 8 to 10 hours of ruminating, milking, a few social interactions... A well-regulated life is ideal for cows! A typical day with no unforeseen events is the best guarantee for performance. The dairy farmer sets up the right conditions for this daily routine to run smoothly. Six interdependent needs are generally considered, because they are strongly linked to each other:
A cow has 9 to 14 meals a day and spends between 3 and 5 hours at the feed trough. The ration must be balanced, fibrous, palatable and stable. If it is made by different people, make sure that the mixture is always made in the right order and proportions.
The cows spend half an hour a day drinking. The water must be clean. Would you drink from the troughs? The answer must be yes. Be especially vigilant in hot weather, test the flow rate and electrical losses. Cows should also be able to drink at will. For this, you need an average of 10 cm of trough per dairy cow.
Cows need about 150 to 200 lux of light for 16 hours of light exposure per day. Tip: you should be able to take a book, hold it up and read it everywhere, including in the bunk area. Provide extra lamps so that you don't have to turn the lights back on if you have to work in the dark.
Regularly renewed air, without humidity or draughts. And above all, not too hot in summer! Heat stress has marked physiological and behavioural effects: immunodepression, reduced appetite, loss of milk, etc. "Hot spells" disturb milk production. Be adamant about ventilation.
A cow spends 12 to 14 hours lying down. It is during these resting phases that the blood flow is the most important, and that she produces her milk. Hygiene is of the utmost importance in both straw and cubicle yard. Getting up and lying down are often repeated movements: keep the surfaces dry and non-slippery.
Moving around without fear to eat, drink, sleep and express heat is essential. Cows spend 2 to 3 hours a day moving around. Make sure they don't slip, avoid fences, steps, unnecessary turns and dead ends.
There are six needs that must be met in order to establish a routine that promotes animal welfare. When welfare is impaired, behaviour is the first thing to be changed. This is true in case of stress or health problems. Is a cow lying down for an abnormally long time? This may be due to an infectious lameness. Another is feeding less: mastitis, ketosis? You know how to recognise these symptoms. But spotting these "cow signs" is time-consuming.
To help you keep an eye on the barn, you can rely on Real Time Activity by BouMatic. Originally a heat detection tool, this system monitors herd activity in real time and tracks behavioural deviations.
Each animal is fitted with a movement detector neck strap. The data is transmitted in real time to a software program and an algorithm interprets the activity of each cow and categorises it: rumination, heat, standing, movement, ingestion. The overall statistics provide an overview of the herd (or batch). Any particular event will result in a modification of the indicators. An incident that might have slipped under your radar is clearly visible on the screen.
Real Time Activity also allows you to observe each individual cow. The daily recording helps to identify where the cow stands in comparison to the previous days. Any sudden change should raise an alarm. Deviant" behaviour is a sign of a health problem or a fragile animal. This is very useful when monitoring animals near calving: Real Time Activity can give an alert when a cow goes into heat or when an anomaly is detected in her feeding and rumination routine.
Real Time Activity can give an alert when a cow goes into heat or when an anomaly is detected in her feeding and rumination routine.