Dirty cows are uncomfortable cows. Fly-bothered cows are uncomfortable cows. And uncomfortable cows are not happy cows. Plus, they produce less milk. Is there a way, then, to make cows clean and comfortable—short of bathing them individually every day and fanning away the flies by hand? One way is with a rotating cow brush.
Scratch Scratch Scratch
Rotating cow brushes, or “cow comfort brushes,” are huge, round, bristle brushes installed in or near a barn, and they, you guessed it, rotate. The brush not only shoos away flies and dirt, it gives them a nice back scratch. Animals like to scratch their backs, heads and other body parts on pretty much any surface they can find. This includes the sharp edges of a barn, fence posts and tree branches. These brushes give cows a safe place to scratch, thus reducing the number of cuts and, therefore, infections on their skin. And in a farming model that strongly focuses on prevention since antibiotics are a last resort, reducing those cuts and infections is paramount.
Cows also get cleaned when they use the brush. The bristles dislodge dirt and dust in their coats and whisk away lice, flies and other pests. For organic farmers, this means they can use less medicinal treatment to keep bugs off, and the cows are more comfortable. And comfortable means happy.
It isn’t even so difficult to convince the cows to use the brush. When a cow isn’t using it, the brush does not rotate. Cows are naturally curious creatures, so they will walk up to examine this big, strange, new thing in the barn. Maybe one will decide those bristles might ease that itch forming on its head. Then the brush will turn on and that’s when the cow realizes she likes what’s going on!
A number of Organic Valley farmer-owners who have installed these brushes for their cows have reported that once the cows learn it is a pleasant experience, sometimes they can’t get the cows away from the brush, they like it so much. In some cases, cows will get into shoving matches over who gets to use the brush. And according to Mike Kulas, a cow comfort brush salesperson and installation expert, many times the cows use the brushes so often that they have to be replaced every few months due to the bristles wearing down.
Pampered cows are happy cows!