There’s a saying among dairy farmers that if you take care of your cows, your cows will take care of you. That outlook has been passed down for generations, and dairy farmers today maintain the same commitment to cow care. The high-quality, wholesome and nutritious dairy foods we buy at the grocery story are available because farmers make sure their cows are always comfortable and healthy.
Nutritious diets, healthy living conditions and top-notch veterinary care are all essential for a healthy herd, and these are among the many cow care practices routinely used by dairy farmers. There’s even a national well-being program dairy farmers follow that makes up over 98% of the U.S. milk supply! But any dairy farmer will tell you they go above and beyond the standard level of care for their cows. Dairy farmers continually explore ways to improve cow comfort with the help of animal scientists and licensed veterinarians.
Syke Talsma, a second-generation dairy farmer in East Texas, has plenty of experience caring for cows in unique situations. She lives and works on Talsma Dairy with her family and oversees making sure their baby calves get off to the best start possible. Even before calves are born, it’s not uncommon for Syke to stay up checking on pregnant cows throughout the night.
“Our house is at the center of the dairy,” she says. “Someone is always with our cows to make sure they are safe and healthy.”
Once when a calf was born that couldn’t walk, Syke and her brothers built a “calf hammock” out of recycled materials lying around the dairy to help it stand and improve circulation and muscle development. After three weeks, the calf slowly started to walk on its own.
“We put 110% into making sure our cows are healthy and comfortable, and sometimes this means putting our own priorities behind us and doing whatever it takes.”
And Dr. Dan Kullot is a licensed dairy veterinarian and consultant in Southwest Kansas who works with farmers to maintain herd health and prevent any issues during a cow’s time at the dairy. While most vets treat animals who are already sick, it’s Dr. Kullot’s goal to keep dairy cows from ever becoming ill or uncomfortable in their environment.
Since dairy farmers are constantly adapting to changing weather conditions, providing the right housing and food for cows is crucial. According to Dr. Kullot, challenges like hot or cold weather can be opportunities for farmers to be innovative and creative with cow care. Some farmers actually “fluff” bedding for the cows to lay on.
“We all have to adapt and customize our situation to our environments,” says Kullot. “In order for animals to thrive, veterinarians and dairy farmers create the right environments to allow that.”
Cows are a dairy farmer’s livelihood, which is why the needs of their herd always come first. Learn more about cow care on dairy farms.