Why are cows in barns?
Have you ever driven by a farm and wondered why the dairy cows are inside barns and not outside on the pasture? You’re not alone, that’s a question I get a lot. And in all honesty, there are quite a few reasons why. Let me explain.
My parents and my brother have a dairy farm in western Michigan, the animals have a special place in our hearts; everything we do is to keep them our #1 priority. We work with a number of experts to help us make decisions, follow the latest research and talk with other farmers to learn what’s worked best for them.
Reasons dairy farmers house our cows in barns:
- We can control their environment. Michigan can have intensely hot summers and very harsh winters. Cows don’t like extreme heat in the summer or the wind during the winter. We keep them in barns to ensure they have the right temperature, so the wind stays off them, and the sun isn’t shining on their backs.
- Speaking of the sun, did you know cows can get sunburnt? I haven’t met a cow yet who could apply sunblock, so we keep a roof overhead to ensure they are protected from the sun’s rays.
- During the heat of the summer cows tend to find the coolest place to lay or stand, and they all congregate together because they are social animals. If they do this out in the sun they generate more body heat and stay warmer, but, because they are cows, they don’t know they’re doing this. All they know is they found a somewhat cooler spot and they want to be near the rest of the herd. In the barns we can keep the temperature consistent throughout by running fans when the outside temperature reaches a certain point.
- We also know exactly what they eat as we provide a well-balanced diet each day. The total mixed ration, or cow casserole, contains the corn, beans, hay, vitamins and minerals the cows need to make wholesome milk. If they are out on pasture, we wouldn’t know what they were eating or how much and they may not receive important nutrients.
- In addition to all the food they can eat, we also ensure they have lots of clean water. Did you know cows can drink 50 gallons of water a day? That’s a bathtub full!
- Cow comfort is everything. In the barn we provide a clean, comfortable place for them to lie down. In our barn we use sand for them to lay on. Some farms use sawdust and others even have mattresses.
These are pretty important reasons we keep our cows in barns, but they all point to the fact that we care for our cows and want them to be content and comfortable so they provide wholesome milk.
What other questions do you have about dairy cows or dairy farming? I LOVE talking about cows!