Wouldn’t you be less productive at work if you were uncomfortable? Of course you would! Well, the same logic is being applied to dairy cows.
According to an AP article published in Business Week, “Cow comfort has become a key concern for the nation’s farmers, who have known for generations that contented cows give more milk. The traditional techniques for keeping cows happy aren’t complicated — feed them well, keep the temperature comfortable and give them room to move around. But some dairy farmers are turning to a new array of creative options intended to keep cows as mellow — and productive — as possible.
Some farmers have installed waterbeds for their cows to rest on, while others play classical music. And some hire animal chiropractors to give older cows a tuneup and correct minor issues in calves, all part of the effort to ensure maximum milk output.
Do the methods really work? There’s no sound scientific data to back up the claims, but dairy farmers say they can see the difference with their own eyes — cows are giving more milk, the milk quality is improving and the herds seem to be enjoying the indulgences.
‘It’s kind of like how an athlete with a sprained ankle isn’t as productive,’ said Larry Meyer, 36, whose parents own the dairy farm in Chilton, Wis., where Lucky and another 115 dairy cows live. ‘If you can get a cow healthy and back to normal, it makes a difference in their productivity.’
Cows can suffer injuries if they slip on a slick spot of concrete or get stepped on by another 1,500-pound bovine, and some calves get their necks kinked during the birthing process. The injuries can cause pain when the animals stand, making them reluctant to jostle for food and leading to compensatory injuries. That, in turn, leads to less milk production.
That’s why farmers are willing to spend about $75 per session for a chiropractic adjustment.
‘The cows tolerate it incredibly well,’ said Gilbertson, the veterinarian. ‘They may be apprehensive at first, until they figure out how good it feels.’
Meyer didn’t have specific figures on how much milk Lucky gave following her chiropractic treatments, but because her mother was the most productive cow in the herd, he wanted to make sure Lucky was in good shape.
While chiropractic care is reserved for injured cows, dairy farmers also are investing in healthy cows’ happiness.”
Dr. Andrew Cohen, of ProActive Chiropractic, in San Francisco says it makes sense although there isn’t much research on the topic yet.
“Scientists know stress disrupts normal hormone balance that is necessary for milk production. We also know that, in humans, sleeping in a comfortable bed, listening to relaxing music, and chiropractic adjustments all reduce stress. Why wouldn’t the same apply to cows? There is a great deal of clinical information on how chiropractic affects animals. Chiropractors have been adjusting race horses for decades because owners eager to protect their investments have seen that the animals are healthier under chiropractic care, but also note a significant improvement in their horses’ performance. And more and more people are bringing their dogs and cats to the chiropractor,” states Dr. Cohen.
The fact that ProActive Chiropractic is in a high rise in the financial district of San Francisco makes it impossible for Dr. Cohen to treat animals, but he loves treating their humans. On a similar topic, Dr. Cohen says, “I’ve worked with a number of competitive horseback riders, and patients report their riding is more balanced and the animal performs better during competitions when the human is well tuned.”
A May 16, 2012, photo shows Lucky, a dairy cow on the Meyer farm in Chilton, Wis. Lucky’s owners said that after she began limping and laying around more, they hired a chiropractor to adjust her and have seen positive results. It’s all part of the effort to ensure maximum milk output. There’s no sound scientific data to back up the claims, but dairy farmers say they believe they’re seeing improved productivity. Photo: Carrie Antlfinger / AP