Clayholm Farms Has It All: Sand, Flat Cow Mattresses, and DCC Waterbeds

"We don’t have swollen hocks on the waterbeds and the cows lie down right away. Comfort wise, compared to sand, waterbeds are pretty much even.”

Leland and Roy Claypoole are second generation farmers with a beautiful registered Holstein herd in Worthington, Penn. Clayholm farms has 390 cows being milked, 200 heifers, and another 200 dry cows.  The farm also has three different bedding systems: DCC Waterbeds for dry cows and three of five milking groups, ground rubber cow mats for two milking groups, and sand bedding for the heifers.

These two farmers have first-hand experience with exactly what is working in terms of cow comfort on their Pennsylvania dairy.

Mattresses

“With the pasture mats, our cows tend to want stand with their front feet up and their back feet in the alley,” said Leland Claypoole. “With the waterbeds, they’ll walk in and lay down a lot faster.”

When the Claypoole’s decided to install DCC Waterbeds, they kept the cow mats they had that were still in decent condition. Today, the mats are ten years old and starting to show it.

“The pasture mats, after about five years, they started packing and they now have holes that have sawdust in them and the back feet of the cows can get stuck,” said Claypoole. “They can really get hurt this way, so I have to go and dig the sawdust out of the holes in the mats.”

Also, the Claypoole uses more sawdust on the mat side than the DCC Waterbed stalls to prevent swollen hocks.

“The mattresses use more sawdust,” said Claypoole. “On the DCC Waterbeds, we use just a little bit of lime on the dry cows and a little lime and sawdust to keep the beds dry on the milking groups."

Their SCC is between 130,000 – 150,000 consistently.

Clayholm farms was recently featured in Country Folks magazine. Read the full article here.

Sand

No one disputes that sand bedding provides superior levels of cow comfort, but DCC Waterbeds perform on par with sand bedding in this area – the Claypoole’s barn is proof as they have comfortable cows.

“We don’t have swollen hocks on the waterbeds and the cows lie down right away,” said Claypoole. “Comfort wise, compared to sand, waterbeds are pretty much even.”

So how are they faring with sand bedding in their heifer facility?

“The sand is good for comfort in the heifer barn, but the waterbeds are right up there with them,” said Claypoole. “Now, once the sand leaves the stall, it becomes a curse. We have to have a sand separator and the sand is hard on the equipment, too, as it gets into the manure spreaders. In the summer, the heifers get flies on them, so they want to dig holes down underneath in the sand.”

DCC Waterbeds

The Claypooles chose DCC Waterbeds for two main reasons: cow comfort and cost.

“When the cows lie down, they’re floating,” said Claypoole. “It’s less resistance on the hock than concrete or mattresses. There are people that will say that when the cows are standing, they’re on the concrete, but that doesn’t matter. When they step into the stall, they lay down. They don’t stand there.”

With his cows lying down, the hocks are protected on the waterbeds.

“We still get some swollen hocks on the old pasture mats, so then we stick those cows on the DCC Waterbeds to heal them up,” said Claypoole.

In terms of cost, the DCC Waterbeds use less sawdust, create healthy cows, and will last longer than the Claypooles’ mattresses. In fact, they cut their sawdust use by 1/3 or more than $10,000 per year.

“We’re saving money in bedding, swollen hocks, and less culled cows with the waterbeds in the barn,” said Claypoole. “It’s hard to say how long they will last, but they’re just as good today as the day they were put in.”

If Leland Claypoole had to choose between these three bedding choices in the future, he’d put in more DCC Waterbeds.

“You put the waterbeds down, and other than buying and putting a little bit of lime on them and it’s pretty much maintenance free. With the sand you have to dump it in and level them up, and if we ever want to have to dump the heifer manure in the manure pit, we’d have to separate it or get rid of the sand.”

Update: In the winter of 2012, the Claypoole family installed an additional 80 DCC Waterbeds, taking out even more of the worn out cow mats.