Award-Winning Farm in Northern Ireland Installs DCC Waterbeds

From left, Samuel, William, and Thomas Steele.

From left, Samuel, William, and Thomas Steele.

Less swollen hocks. We are very, very happy with their overall performance and how the cows are doing on them.

Roweagh Farms in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, was the recipient of the 2012 UK Dairy Farm of the Year. Why? Well, aside from a beautiful facility, a new rotary parlor, and a commitment to dairying, the family – William and Rosemary Steele and their sons Thomas and Samuel – recently installed 55 DCC Waterbeds in their fresh cow area.

“We won the Farmers Weekly ‘UK Dairy Farmer of the Year’ [2012] and the judges were very impressed with the waterbeds as they are not that common here,” said Thomas Steele, part owner of the family farm. “So I think this may have increased our chances of winning!”

Q: Why did you choose DCC Waterbeds?

A: We were just going to go with the standard mattress, but after doing a wee bit of research of our own we considered DCC Waterbeds. Then we physically saw them in a barn –we saw in cow comfort and bedding material savings that they would suit us well.

Q: What is the best thing about DCC Waterbeds?

A: Cow comfort. Less swollen hocks. We are very, very happy with their overall performance and how the cows are doing on them.

Q:Have you seen other differences your cows on DCC Waterbeds?

A:Cow hygiene is much better. The cows on the waterbeds are cleaner. What I like about the waterbeds is, if a cow puts manure on the back or wets the back of the back of the bed, it tends to run off. Whereas on the old mattresses there is an indentation, like a dish, and all of the liquid pools where she would lay down.

Q:You have 450 cows, but just one shed with DCC Waterbeds (55 beds), which cows are on the DCC Waterbeds?

A: We put our fresh calved cows on the waterbeds. Those first 2-3 weeks after calving are critical for her, and I just wanted her to have the top luxury during that time.

Q: Have DCC Waterbeds affected your cows lying times?

A: We have pedometers on the cows and they measure the lying times for each group of cows. The group in the waterbeds shed has more lying time than the cows in the other houses.

Q: Have your mastitis rates changed since installing DCC Waterbeds?

A: The mastitis rates are down. We were running about 30 cases per 100, down to 24 cases per 100 cows.

Q: How do you believe the waterbeds are holding up in the barn?

A: They are perfect so far, we have had no issues.

Q: What is your maintenance routine?

A: We keep them fairly well bedded, but we are using 1/3 less sawdust on the waterbeds than on the mattress side. The cows are cleaner. We don’t get hock damage. The beds don’t get damp. It is working well from a comfort, maintenance, and mastitis point of view.

Q: How has having DCC Waterbeds affected manure management on your farm?

A: As we add in more waterbeds, they will probably help reduce the amount of manure we have to spread. Also, we have a closed period where we can’t spread manure (Nov. – Feb.), so they will help ease the pressure for winter manure storage as well.

Q: How have waterbeds affected your bottom line?

A: We’re not spending as much on sawdust, and were saving time in bedding that shed, for sure. Those health benefits have saved money, too.

Q: How did the cows adjust to the DCC Waterbeds?

A: The first night that we let them in the shed, they just looked at them and didn’t know what they were supposed to do, but after about a week they were lying on them content.

Q: You’re one of the first farms in Ireland to have DCC Waterbeds. What have your neighbors said so far?

A: Roweagh Farm is a Northern Ireland Focus Farm here – we have about 1,000 farmers per year visit to see new technology, good farming practice and get questions answered. When they see the waterbeds, they can’t believe that there is such a thing available. They see that the cows enjoy the waterbeds.

Q: Has it been worth the investment?

A: One of the issues that would hold some people back is the cost. They are more expensive than your standard mattress. So, when we ordered, we wondered if we’ve wasted a pile of money, but definitely not. We have 55, and we will be replacing our other mattresses with more DCC Waterbeds over time.