Sustainability Justification in the Dairy Industry
The dairy industry in the United States has achieved significant improvements in productive efficiency, producing more milk with fewer cows. From 1944 to 2007, the industry reduced the number of cows from 25 million head to 9 million head – while at the same time increasing milk production from 117 billion pounds to 186 billion pounds (USDA-NASS, 2008).
Among the most important factors in maximizing efficiency is the availability of comfortable stalls. Stall design and management has a major impact on lameness and other aspects of cow health.
Dairy products are high-value nutritional products that are produced in a highly efficient, sustainable and responsible manner. The increases in efficiency are possible because of improvements in things like management, technology, genetics and feed additives. In order for a cow to maintain high levels of efficiency, she needs to be healthy and comfortable with adequate areas to lie down and rest.
Modern dairy housing systems are designed to maximize efficiency. Research has shown that aspects of the free stall such as the quality of the lying surface and stall dimensions influence stall use and cow comfort. Stall design and management has a major impact on lameness and other aspects of cow health. Such problems are very costly for dairy producers and they impact the overall ability of cows to produce milk at high efficiency levels.