Cows need a lot of rest to ruminate-there’s a lot going on there. In fact, they need 12-14 hours of rest a day even though they actually only sleep-at least what we consider sleep-for about 30 minutes.
If a cow doesn’t get her proper rest, she her production will decrease by 2-3.5 pounds for every hour she can’t rest properly. And then there’s components. Cows need to chew their cud 450-600 times a day. They do this mainly when they’re resting and usually laying on their left side.
Here are some things to do to improve rest time:
1. Don’t overstock
Aim for no more than 1.2 animals per stall. Resting time is reduced by 12-27% when stocking densities exceeds 120%. Cows will stand more, be more aggressive and have more hoof problems as well as lowered milk production and components if the stocking density is too high.
2. Reduce pen moves and stall changes
Socially, moving cows away from their buddies causes a significant amount of stress-and requires the cow to go through the pecking order again.
3. Increase the comfort of the stall
One way to measure stall comfort is to record the number of cows lying in stalls, then dividing it by the number of cows not eating. The number should be over .75. In other words, if more than 25% of the cows are standing and not eating , you have a stall comfort or stocking problem.
In a tiestall, if more than 25% of the cows are standing and not eating-your stalls are not comfortable.
Hock sores are another indication of stall comfort. If you are seeing hock sores, your stalls are not comfortable.
4. Improve ventilation
A cow will not lay down for the length of time she needs to, if the ventilation is poor. A cow breathes better when she is standing.
5. Reduce time away from stalls
Excessive time spent in the holding area, in the headlocks waiting to get bred or in an exercise yard can reduce rest time and mess up their natural biorhythm. Do the math and make sure they get enough time to rest.
6. Minimize heat stress
When it gets really hot, cows will stand and bunch together-seeking shade or better airflow. They will stand because it dissipates heat faster from their body than lying down. This is one of the causes of milk and component loss in the heat. Have your heat abatement system in place so that they don’t resort to this natural behavior.