LKS Jerseys Switched from Sand, Couldn't Be Happier

"I really don't know why anyone would want anything other than waterbeds."

We spoke to Keith Schulte at LKS Jerseys in Dorchester, Iowa, about why they switched from sand bedding to DCC Waterbeds.

Q: Why did you choose DCC Waterbeds?
A: We were building a completely new facility. We had sand, and looked at it, but sand is getting more expensive, it’s a lot of work, and cow comfort was not great year round. [shulte]

Q: What’s your favorite thing about DCC Waterbeds?
A: I don’t think there is just one favorite thing. They are easy to maintain and don’t pack down. There isn’t much stall maintenance and the comfort – you can go in there and see cows sound asleep.

Q: What were the issues you faced when managing sand?
A: There is just a lot of added work to sand. Managing the manure alone was a problem – every dump truck load you bring in is a dump truck load you have to deal with at least two more times down the line getting it into the stalls, then into the manure pit, and then out again. With the new barn, we would have had to put in a much larger manure pit to have sand, and we would have had to do much more grooming.

Q: Were there comfort issues on sand?
A: Sand can freeze on you. In fact, when we had sand in the free stalls, we could have to chop corn stocks and put that on top of the frozen sand stalls so they would be warm and the cows would use them.

Q: So winter was bad, but now with the new barn it doesn’t get below freezing in the barn, right?
A: Right, in the barn, but the sand outside would still freeze and we wouldn’t be able to get it in the barn. And in the summer we would have to constantly be in refilling the beds because the cows kick the sand out because of the flies – you couldn’t keep the sand in the stall in the summertime.

Q: What has changed in cow comfort now that you’re in the new barn?
A: It took them about six weeks to get used to the whole new barn and the waterbeds, but now we have more comfort everywhere from cooling to stalls to rubber flooring, plus a more consistent and sanitary bedding – sand looks sanitary when you look at it, but if you dig down a little it’s another story, you really had to keep on top of it. We’ve seen our SCC come down nearly 100,000.

Q: What has changed for you?
A: Manure hauling is much easier. Now we have drops from the scrapers to the reception pit that are pumped into the large pit. Now we have our barn cleaned six times a day with the automatic scrapers. We don’t have near the time on the skid loader, either. Part of having sand was being in there disrupting the cows with the skid loader, cleaning and leveling, all the time. Now we just put in shavings with a side shooter once a week and scrape the ends every day when we get the cows into milk.

Q: What’s the best thing for your cows about DCC Waterbeds?
A: If there is any mess, you can see it and address it quickly right away. No manure is settling down into your bed. Our new barn stays above freezing and we have good comfort year round – and no hock swelling at all. Plus, every bed is the same all the time. They don’t pack down and the cows can’t dig them out. There is all of this comfort and just so much less work.

Q: Having had sand from 1997 to 2013, and now DCC Waterbeds for two years, what advice would you give others?
A: I really don’t know why anyone would want anything other than waterbeds. I’m sure the waterbeds cost more up front, but it’s just so much better overall. We get the same production and same healthy feet and legs as we had on sand. The investment has been worth it just in cow comfort, not to mention all of the maintenance benefits. Even the heifers love them. I haven’t seen a heifer lay in the alley on the rubber flooring. The beds are just that comfortable.