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Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2008

Farmers pamper cows to boost output

May 17, 2008

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— When it comes to comfort, Kirk Christie's cows have it all - a new barn, a flat-screen television and waterbeds.

That's because of the dairy farmer's philosophy that a happy cow is a productive cow. More milk means more money, so Christie doesn't mind providing the frills.

"Them cows are my girls," said Christie, who runs a farm near Slater, about 25 miles north of Des Moines. "You ask anybody, I probably think more highly of those cows than I do myself."

Christie's 23 cows spend about 18 hours a day on waterbeds he installed in November. He said the beds, durable rubber mats that lay flat on the ground and are filled with water, were popular with the animals from the beginning. They provide heat for the cows in the winter and coolness in the summer, depending on the water Christie pipes in.

The beds are covered with woods chips for extra padding to prevent friction.

"They really took to them right away," he said. "When they're laying down chewing cud, they're comfortable and happy."

Christie's cows aren't the only ones enjoying such comforts. Industry experts say waterbeds are increasingly being used in dairy farms across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe, where the idea originated more than a decade ago.

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