DCC Waterbeds are NOT flat cow mattresses

Many times producers will tell us that they “don’t like mattresses” because they consistently perform poorly, contributing to hock abrasions, wearing out in five to six years, and need tremendous amounts of additional bedding material.

We tell these folks over and over: Dual Chamber Cow Waterbeds are NOT mattresses.  Here are the major differences:

Construction

The fill base of all manmade flat mattresses on the market are solid rubber, latex, crumb rubber, foam, or fabric. These base materials are then encased in covers made of rubber, latex, or fabric. The construction leads to two major problems: 1) the materials inside the mattress will pack, and 2) the top cover and seams are the weakest point in the system and often tear.

DCC Waterbeds are a vulcanized rubber bladder system. Since they are filled with water, it is impossible for them to ever pack. Also, there is no top cover. The bed itself is guaranteed for 10 years (six years when installed in a tie stall barn).

Comfort

The ultimate test of a bedding surface’s performance is when the cow is lying. Mattresses may feel soft when the cow is standing on them, but standing is not where you want your cows to be.  Cows are most productive and least susceptible to lameness when they are lying down. When cows lie on flat mats, no matter how soft the mat is, the surface she lies on is inflexible.  The only thing that moves is her skin, and her skin abrades against the flat mat surface. This rubbing is what causes hock injuries, which leads to discomfort and more standing up.

Again, DCC Waterbeds are totally different.  The front pillow cushions the knees as she descends.  The rear cushion comforts her hips as she drops to the resting position. As the cow continues her lying bout, up to three hours at a time and 12-14 hours per day, the DCC Waterbed acts much like a specialty hospital bed where a person is confined for long periods.  The hospital bed moves with the skin, preventing bedsores.  The DCC Waterbed performs the same function.  The cows body forces the water to her lighter points, her hocks, knees and udder, her pressure points, and the bed moves with her skin, preventing sores.

Cost and durability

Manmade rubber flat mattresses and DCC Waterbeds can be comparable in terms of up-front costs. However, we tell farmers to take into consideration two things 1) the warranty and 2) the amount of additional bedding you need to keep the mattress comfortable. DCC Waterbeds have a 10-year warranty and need little to no additional bedding material to provide consistent and superior cow comfort.

It is important when reading news articles or research studies that waterbeds of any type are not ever confused with results for mattresses. Data for mattresses cannot be used as data for waterbeds. In one study that compared waterbeds, sand, and mattresses, you can see how much better waterbeds perform compared to mattresses: http://bit.ly/JDS2007.

Pass your third-party audit with zero hock sores

Barn audits by milk processors or evaluations for certifications that you seek as a dairy producer are becoming more frequent and more intense as consumer demand is setting standards for dairy practices and herd health. More and more frequently, we hear from our customers who have recently been audited because they want to share their excellent audit experiences. 

In December a dairyman in Montana reached out to tell us that their auditor, who was also a veterinarian and nutritionist, already knew that the herd would be exceptional based on her experience seeing DCC Waterbeds at other dairies. Only 15 of the dairy’s 180 cows, the older cows, had slight hair loss, compared to 20%+ when the cows were on mats. He recounted the struggles he had with open sores, hair loss, and lameness on his previous flat-mat bedding.

This producer is one of many who report zero hock sores and high levels of cow comfort.

“We are part of a specialty milk program, so we have to be inspected each year [by a third party]. One of their stipulations was we have to have at least four inches of bedding if you have mattresses, and we use none. So, we didn’t think we were going to pass,” said Larry Baer of Marshalville, Ohio. Baer has 500 DCC Waterbeds. “The inspector came the first year and had never heard about waterbeds. She showed up at the farm at 9:30 in the morning and didn’t leave until 4 p.m. She looked at the barn, the facilities, the schedule, and closely at the cows. When we got the report back, we had passed with flying colors. We scored very, very high.”

The same story came out of Michigan: 

“In 2012 when we went through the Michigan Milk Producers Association verification of cow comfort, we had just one cow out of 140 with markings and bruising on her hocks, but her twin sister had the same problem so it might have been a genetic thing. The rest of our cows have no bruising on their hocks,” said Steve Foley of Millington, Michigan. Foley has 336 DCC Waterbeds for his milking herd and heifers. “Also, they found that 99 percent of the cows show a normal locomotion and were standing properly. A lot of our cows are lying down, which tells you that they’re comfortable out there.”

It is a testament to the comfort of DCC Waterbeds that these outside consultants and evaluators are coming in and supporting what we know to be true with the data to back it up.

We continue to work to share the benefits of DCC Waterbeds with auditors and other industry professionals, so we can continue to help connect the dots between cow comfort, hock health, and DCC Waterbeds.