Caring for Our Cows
Milk production is not just a profession for dairy farmers; it’s their way of life. Dairy farm families live and work on their farms and know that healthy, happy cows produce more high-quality milk; so the animals’ well-being is a top priority for Georgia's farmers. They provide a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions for their cows.
Professional nutritionists help dairy farmers develop a balanced and nutritious diet for their cows. The ingredients in the feed is a mix of hay, grains like soybeans and corn, protein, vitamins and minerals. Water is also an important part of a cow’s diet and dairy farmers make sure their cows have access to clean water all day.
Freestall Barns: Some Georgia dairy farms feature “freestall” barns that allow cows to walk around as they please and to eat, drink and sleep whenever and wherever they choose. They also provide shade and protection from bad weather.
Barns can also be outfitted with large automated brushes so that dairy cows can walk up and activate the rotating bristles to scratch their heads or bodies whenever they want.
Medical Care: Cattle care in dairy farming also requires medical assistance. Dairy farmers work closely with their veterinarians who perform regular herd checks to make sure the cows are healthy. Depending on the herd size, a vet may visit monthly, weekly or even daily.
When dairy cows get sick the vets may prescribe medicines like antibiotics. Those medicines are carefully administered and closely regulated and the treated cows are separated from the rest of the milking herd so that their milk NEVER reaches the food supply.
Freestall barns are well ventilated and also feature fans and water misters that keep the cows cool and comfortable during Georgia's hot and humid seasons.
Clean sand, wood chips, mattresses or even waterbeds provide comfortable bedding for the cows.Many dairy farmers have installed non-slip flooring in their barns to make it safe and easy for the cows to move around.
The beds and walkways are scraped for manure and flushed with water several times a day. Some farms have systems that can sift and separate the water, manure and sand or other bedding so that the products can be cleaned and recycled for later use.
Caring for the Land
Manure is spread on crop fields according to detailed nutrient management plans. These plans take into account the types of soil on the farm, the terrain of the fields, soil moisture levels, and the amount of nutrients the next crop on that field will need.
New methane digester technology on some dairies converts manure into methane-rich biogas, a renewable fuel that can be used to generate electricity. Farms employing this technology may generate more than enough electricity to run their operations, and they can sell excess energy back to the local utility.
Dairy farmers help protect air quality by following proper manure storage practices and by maintaining clean farms.
Dairy farmers invest in new technologies to protect and improve air quality. University researchers and industry experts continually work with dairy farmers to identify new ways to control odor.
Most dairy farmers live on or near the land they farm, so it’s important to them to protect the soil, water and air for their families, surrounding communities and future generations.
Dairy farmers use water responsibly and often recycle it to use on their crops or to clean their milking parlors and barns. For example, wastewater is recycled to flush feed alleys and irrigate fields.
One benefit of fertilizing the soil with cow manure is water conservation. When manure is used to treat soil, its water-holding capacity increases by 20 percent, reducing the amount of groundwater needed to grow crops.
Large dairy farms are required to follow nutrient management plans to recycle manure and protect the environement. This is monitored by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.