A program at the University of Wisconsin focused on improving dairy cow comfort, milk production and health has received a $50,000 grant from Dean Foods Foundation to make its web-based resources available to all U.S. farmers.
The program, called The Dairyland Initiative, offers dairy barn building plans and other information based on research and field trials in dairy housing.
"The Dairyland Initiative operates under the well-established premise that dairy cows produce at the highest levels when they're immersed in an environment that accommodates their comfort needs," says Nigel Cook, professor of food animal production medicine.
"We intended to create a resource where, in one location, dairy producers can find all the information they need to build welfare-friendly facilities for their cattle," he notes.
The web resources provide detailed recommendations for updating tie stall or stanchion barns with mattresses and sawdust bedding; modifying free stalls for improved comfort; and planning housing facilities for calves to adult cows.
Previously, only Wisconsin farmers could access the website for free while those outside of the state paid a nominal fee. Now, consultations, workshops and web tools can be accessed anywhere for free, thanks to the Dean Foods grant.
"We are committed to promoting improved animal welfare among dairy farmers," says Liliana Esposito, Dean Foods Foundation president. "We are pleased that farmers nationwide can now take advantage of this program that offers up-to-date information and best practices on farm resource management provided by experts in this field."
Though the program was originally intended for northern locales, Ken Nordlund, clinical professor of food animal production medicine, says the grant will remove a significant barrier to use of the program outside of Wisconsin.
"While different climates will dictate some differences in how dairy cattle are housed, the concepts behind the 'Wisconsin Blueprint' recommendations of our website address the physical and social needs of calves, heifers and cows no matter the location," Nordlund notes.
Since The Dairyland Initiative's launch in 2010, more than 200 dairy farms and 200 dairy professionals have taken advantage of resources in building and facility design, calf barn ventilation and transition cow barn planning.
At least 1,600 farmers, builders, veterinarians, and other consultants have referenced the website, registering more than 14,500 daily log-ins to access welfare-friendly dairy cattle housing resources, the program reports.
Visit the Dairyland Initiative website.