Majestic View Dairy near Lancaster, WI really believes in cow comfort. In 2009, partners Ron and Terri Abing and John and Peg Haskins, began remodeling two freestall barns that house their 1,100 milking cows, removing flat mats and concrete, enlarging stalls to the proper dimensions, and switching to deep bedded sand with a sand separation system.
The renovation process and investment included: hammering out concrete, adding 48 feet to the length of the barn, installing a state-of-the-art sand separation system, and making a commitment to groom and add as much sand as it takes for comfort.
For an operator like Majestic View to show a total commitment to cow comfort means that they are willing to invest in solutions that put the cow first, with confidence that the results will pay dividends.
Last year, Abing was looking to create a facility to house 550 heifers, from 500 lbs. to freshening, that put them in a single, comfortable facility – but one that wouldn’t have the maintenance of the sand system for the milking herd.
“I literally chose what I thought was the best form of bedding in comfort that we could get underneath the heifers without using sand,” said Abing, who put in 460 DCC Waterbeds junior in Majestic View’s new heifer free stall barn finished last fall.
“My goal was to raise a really nice heifer and a really comfortable heifer with as little maintenance as we could,” he said. “I feel like we’ve reached our goals. I would absolutely recommend you raise your heifers on these waterbeds.”
Q: Why did you go from open pasture to free stalls with DCC Waterbeds junior?
A: Before, the heifers were in the pasture or in sheds in loose housing. We were doing a lot of work hauling feed to them all over the place. We wanted a heifer free stall barn for three reasons: to reduce costs of caring for the heifers, to increase comfort, and to improve manure management.
Q: You have sand for the milking herd with a separator, why didn't you expand the sand operation to the heifers?
A: When I built this barn, I wanted it to be as maintenance free as possible. Sand is more work than waterbeds by far, and then you have the work of getting the sand out of the pit. Knowing this was heifers, I wanted maintenance-free comfort. I get that with the waterbeds.
Q: What is your maintenance on the DCC Waterbeds junior?
A: We don’t use a single ounce of bedding on the waterbeds. The way they move and the comfort, they literally do not need any bedding, and it’s working out really well. The barn is cleaned daily. One guy scrapes the alleys, the other guy moves the heifers from side to side, and quickly scrapes any manure off the ends of the beds.
Q: With zero bedding and maintenance, how do you know your heifers are comfortable on DCC Waterbeds junior?
A: It’s shown by how well they lay in them. You can go over there some days and you can have 450 heifers, one in every stall. And there are plenty of days you will find zero heifers laying in the alley. All of them are laying in the stalls. That’s really cool.
Q: How do you keep heifers from going in backwards, like they are prone to do in a free stall barn?
A: We have sized and grouped the stalls and heifers in smallest to largest pens. We seldom see any laying in there backwards because we sized the stalls right for the cows. We have a 3-foot stall for the littlest ones. They just gobble them up. We don’t have to use any management to push or tie them in and get them used to it. They love it; they’re in there all the time. When we get up to the 1,000-1200 lbs., we have a 3.5-foot stall. Then as they get bigger, they go onto a 4-foot stall. We added a brisket locator to keep them going too far forward.
Q: Do you think it has been a good investment for your operation to bed the heifers on DCC Waterbeds junior?
A: They were not the cheapest bed to put in there, but I was all for as good a bed as we could get without using sand. I cared more for the heifer comfort than I did for the cost of the stall. I know that will pay off in the long run.
I think the waterbeds are the best for the heifers to lay down on for comfort and maintenance, rather than go to sand and have those complications. I recommend the waterbeds for heifers, for sure.