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A few bold dairy farmers are dramatically increasing yields with the most advanced barn configurations and milking operations. Unlike many reforms over the past 30 years, that were based upon “speeding up” the assembly line, these reforms are designed to promote cow “happiness.”

For years, animal rights advocates have hounded the livestock industry, demanding better and more humane treatment of livestock. A string of video documentaries portraying brutal and unsanitary conditions didn’t help matters.

The situation led to a demand on the part of customers that their food be raised in better healthier conditions. It wasn’t just for the sake of the animals, but also for the health of the consumer. But food being highly competitive on price, many in the business thought that humane treatment was a pipedream. Industry regulations didn’t budge, but many began buying food that was certified as organic or free range. Conditions of growing and raising food became a marketing opportunity and one place that smart businessmen could goose the price point in a notoriously price sensitive industry.

Milk production increased 12 to 15 pounds per cow on average after the change.

A few innovative dairy farmers, such as Bruce and Faye Wichman, recently portrayed in The Wisconsin State Farmer, decided to take the cow by the horns, so to speak. They built a new milking facility that is a model in cleanliness, safety, and well-being for their dairy cows.

It is an open-air facility with an extra-high roof for added ventilation.  The stalls are open so the cows can walk about, with deep sand in the stalls that are better for hygiene and for the cows’ feet, plus the cows find the sand comfortable to lie and rest on. There are automatic robotic milkers, so cows can be milked from two to five times a day, depending on the production of the particular animal.

The result? Milk production increased 12 to 15 pounds per cow on average after the change.  Clearly happy cows produce more milk. The bold question? It is not can dairymen afford these changes, but rather, can dairymen afford not to make these changes that benefit both cows, consumers, and the bottom-line.