In 2013, we introduced the new DCC Waterbeds ISO design (see next page for more detail). The two chambers in the original DCC Waterbed have been completely separated to create the ISO, or isolated chamber, DCC Waterbed. One of the first farms to install the ISO, Verhasselt Farms in Kaukauna, WI, has had 1,023 original DCC Waterbeds since 2011. In 2013, they put in 504 DCC Waterbeds ISO. They also have 1,000 stalls on rubber mats.
Q: Why did you choose DCC Waterbeds?
A: We were looking for something to make the cows as comfortable as they could be, and we believed DCC Waterbeds would be the best bed to do that. I had seen the waterbeds at shows and farms, and one of the things that stood out in our minds was the 10-year guarantee.
Q: What is the best thing about DCC Waterbeds?
A: The cows utilize the waterbeds perfectly and the beds and the cows stay clean. They don’t take a lot of bedding, and our hock abrasions are way down in the waterbed barn.
Q: You have about 2/3 of your farm on DCC Waterbeds, are they worth the investment so far?
A: Yes. We have five different barns and if you walk through and pick a barn or two, you would automatically pick out waterbed barns. The cows are laying down, not standing, they’re comfortable. Right as those other mats wear out, we will look to continue to replace them with the DCC Waterbeds ISO.
Q: What is the greatest advantage to the DCC Waterbeds ISO?
A: The barn that we installed the ISOs in, it was a fresh cow barn, and we wanted the top-of-the-line beds in that barn. Right now on the market, for me, the ISO bed is the best option for cow comfort.
Q: What is the biggest difference you see between DCC Waterbeds ISO and our original dual chamber design?
A: I think the cows don’t bottom hardly at all on the ISO beds. On the originals, it’s possible that a cow can bottom out, but the ISOs are a little more forgiving as the cows stands up and lays down. To be totally honest, the cows utilize the original beds perfectly, too.
Q: So if they’re utilizing the originals fine, and the hocks and lying times are great on both, why did you upgrade to ISO?
A: We think that the ISOs protect her from bottoming out, which was enough that when we looked at cow comfort, the cost of having the best support available was worth the extra investment. But, you can’t spend an unlimited amount in cow comfort, which is why the waterbeds are the best overall for our farm.
Q: When you say “an unlimited amount” what do you mean?
A: We had a point in our career that we had more than 600 stalls in sand. Now, sand is a very good bedding the day you fill, but it deteriorates right away and gets even worse over time. With sand, I won’t argue that it’s the best the day you fill it, but it’s all about how often you refill. We were filling stalls once or twice a week, and the sand started to affect how we were making decisions on other parts of the farm, like our reception pits. And the more you are refilling to keep the sand at its highest level of comfort, the more it costs you in sand and manure hauling. And if you miss a routine, even once, then suddenly sand is not a very comfortable stall after spending all the time and money on it.
Q: How do DCC Waterbeds compare to that?
A: What I like about waterbeds is they are close as we’ve seen to our sand stalls, and I mean as close to sand on day one or two after filling, in terms of comfort. What is better is the waterbeds are consistent day in and day out, with none of the maintenance. If I miss bedding the barn, the stalls are still comfortable. Right now my per-cow average is higher and my cell count is roughly the same as when we had sand bedding. It would be hard to convince me that I would get better production or lower count with sand than I’m getting right now. I walk into a barn and I see all of my cows laying and I see cows chewing her cud, and I know we’ve accomplished what we set out to do – and with waterbeds in the barn.
Q: What has changed with waterbeds versus when it was sand, in terms of labor and maintenance?
A: We go through twice a week in a truck and spread a thin coat of sawdust on everything, the waterbeds and the mats. You can bed 1,000 stalls with a truckload and it’s 250 stalls in 15 minutes. With sand it was tons of sand we were filling once or twice a week, and then you had a lot more problems in the scraping and manure system.
Q: What’s the difference in terms of maintenance between the DCC Waterbeds and the other mats you currently have on the farm?
A: We have better bedding retention on the waterbeds than on the flat mats. The waterbeds stay nice and dry, they’re easy to clean off during milkings, and there is minimal manure on the stalls, so it’s easy.
Q: How did the waterbeds do this winter (2013/4)?
A: We had the coldest winter in years, and the cows were all comfortable and clean all winter. We bedded twice a week, and we didn’t heave to deal with the logistics of getting any frozen sand in and out of the barn.
Q: How do your cows’ hocks look?
A: With the originals or the ISOs, the hocks of the cows on waterbeds always have a lot less abrasions than any of the other mats we’ve ever had in the barn, and we’ve had many different brands.
Q: How is hoof health?
A: When cows lay down, you have fewer hoof issues. After milking my cows in the waterbed barns they eat and they go fill the stalls up. So, we have good hooves.
Q: Have DCC Waterbeds changed your culling practices?
A: I’m culling voluntarily. I don’t like involuntary culling. We don’t have an involuntary culling issue because our cows look good and are healthy.
Q: How is dryness, mastitis, and SCC on DCC Waterbeds?
A: Mastitis has never been a real issue on our dairy. We have managed the stalls well. With DCC Waterbeds the management is just easier and we still get an average SCC of 200,000.
Q: How has manure management improved since getting rid of sand?
A: Now when we start up a pump, we don’t have to worry about sand settling out. It’s easy on manure management.