It is that time of the year when we reflect on “Wow, where did 2010 go?” or begin to make resolutions or set goals for the new year. It is often said that the older you get, the faster time seems to pass.
Each of us has 24 hours a day and seven days a week, but it is up to us how we use it. It, too, is often expressed, “If you have something that needs done, ask someone who is busy to do it,” meaning that someone who works hard and organizes their time well gets things done.
As we get older, we do have more responsibilities, and it becomes even more important for us to prioritize our time. It is almost entertaining to watch how young people, e.g. teenagers, spend their time, especially with video games, TV, and social communication technology, and yet constantly express that they are “bored.”
Can you remember the last time you were bored? Were you really bored or was it a moment in time you had a chance to think about time management. Cowabunga, dude!
Time management is important
If you remember the TV shows that brought the expression of “Cowabunga, dude!” to life (especially The Howdy Doody Show and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), then your age is being reflected. Until we identify that “WOW! How I spend my time is important,” we aren’t likely to change much in our lives.
Now that I have used the “cow” word (my family and friends sometime believe that I only think about cows) and time management, it is important to reflect on how cows use time in your dairy herd.
Affecting milk yield
What they do with their time will affect milk yield, and it will also reflect their comfort and health. In a recent Wisconsin study with 205 cows in 16 herds using freestalls, time management by cows was monitored . Time spent milking averaged 2.7 hr/day, but ranged from 0.5 to 6 hr/day.
Even though one would think that milking frequency (2x vs. 3x) would have a large affect on the variation for this time use, it didn’t and the major factor was overstocking of pens.
It is generally assumed that cows spend about 4.8 hr/day eating (20 percent of day), which was only slightly less in this study at 4.3 hr/day (ranging from 1.1 to 8.1 hr).
Cows in the first lactation spent more time eating (4.5 hr) versus cows with three or more lactations (4.1 hr). Feeding time increased with milk yield as expected, but increased time spent milking and lameness reduced feeding time.
Freestall surfaces in the study were either mattress (rubber crumb-filled with small amount of organic bedding on top surface) or sand.
Lame cows spend more time lying in alleys and standing in stalls for herds with mattresses than those with sand stalls. Lame cows in herds with mattresses had more lying bouts of shorter duration than lame cows in herds with sand stalls, thus cows in freestalls with mattresses were more restless and less comfortable in usage of the stalls.
Lower prevalence of lameness is usually associated with herds using sand in freestalls versus other types of stall surfaces.
Herd management decisions certainly affect the time usage by cows, which can affect milk yield and animal health. Adequate bunk space is very important for adequate feeding time, thus pen overstocking should be minimized (even more critical with 6-row freestall barns), separate first lactation animals (eat slower and less aggressive) from older animals, and minimize the time that cows spend away from the feeding area.
Overstocking even increased milking time, which not only affects feeding behavior but increases milking time, thus increasing employee cost for milking and increasing standing time, which can increase lameness.
Prevalence of lameness and usage of stalls (position within stall and lying and rising behaviors) should be monitored.
If changes are needed in stall design and herd management practices, now is the time to plan for the changes and to begin the work, before spring when crops and other farming chores will be taking priority.
Cowabunga dude! These changes can pay high returns! And yes, spring is only about three months away — time is of essence!