The Wisconsin Blueprint

Preview - Adult Cow Housing

Preview - Replacement Housing

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About The Dairyland Initiative

   Over recent years, anyone intimately associated with animal agriculture will be aware of growing consumer concern over the well-being of the animals producing our food. Among these concerns is the issue of housing, and the disease and injuries associated with it.

   Wisconsin is unique compared to other intensive areas of dairy production in North America and the rest of the world, in that it has a variety of dairy production systems - from grazing herds, to tie stall or stanchion barns, to modern free stall facilities. It is this diversity that has led us to understand better the impact of the environment on our dairy animals through research and clinical experience, and the knowledge we have gleaned has culminated in the production of this document.

   The purpose of the Wisconsin Blueprint is to collect in one place the ideas and standards which we believe should be used to produce an economically viable and competitive dairy industry, with optimal animal well-being as the #1 goal. While some animal welfare advocates believe that all dairy cows should graze, there are very good reasons for providing housing for our dairy cattle, notably relief from thermal stress (excessive heat or chilling), shelter from driving rain and snow, observation of the sick, and protection from parasitism. As soon as we choose to house cattle rather than manage them at pasture, we are making a conscious decision to modify their behavior. Dairy cows housed in a freestall barn, fed a total mixed ration (TMR) and milked in a parlor 2-3 times a day are clearly not living a life their ancestors were designed for. It is also clear that whatever housing design we choose, the cow is compromised to a greater or lesser degree. However, we believe that the free stall barn is the future of our industry, providing a reasonable compromise between behavioral freedom and a sustainable, economically viable production system and over the last 10 years we have arrived at the design recommendations detailed herein, which optimize the well-being of our dairy cows and calves.

   Our main goal is to incorporate as many research supported biological standards as possible to enhance the current engineering practices while producing a facility that is both economically viable and welfare friendly. Where science has yet to provide the answers we need, our clinical experience is used to make informed recommendations. As new information is made available, we aim to update the website with new insights and recommendations.

The Dairyland Initiative has some guiding principles for cow and calf housing. These are to:

  1. Accommodate cows and calves in groups which are socially stable over time, and manage groups to minimize movements between them.

  2. Wherever possible provide exposure to natural light and ventilation, but to utilize mechanical assistance where needed.

  3. Provide a comfortable place to rest designed to meet the space requirement of the animal, and not inhibit rising or lying movements. We actively promote the use of sand bedding for mature cows and straw for calves.

  4. Provide enough feed and water space for each animal to optimize health.

  5. Design barn layouts that do not result in undue time away from a place to feed and rest.

  6. Design facilities to reduce the risk for spread of disease between neighbors.
 

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