Do you remember Borden’s Elsie? She was the “contented cow” who symbolized the condensed milk products of Borden’s in the 1940s. The idea was
that Borden kept their cows so contented that their milk output reflected their happy life. Well, maybe life was good for Elsie and other cows then, but life seems to be a lot better for today's milk cows.
The idea that “contented” cows produce more milk was known in Elsie’s day and it is still a matter of importance for milk producers today. There doesn’t seem to be much dispute about that. But what does it take to make a cow “contented” these days?
In the “old days", keeping cows contented amounted to giving them room to move around and keeping temperatures comfortable, pretty simple. Today, keeping cows comfortable has taken on a whole new and different aspect. Of course space is still a key element and temperature control is important too. Nowadays, however, cows who have a pulled muscle or aching joint don’t get a shot of pain killer to ease the discomfort as in the past. They get a visit with the animal chiropractor to work out their kinks. Classical music piped in seems to sooth milk cows as well. Can you believe waterbeds? It seems that a dairy farmer in Ohio has spent as much as $70,000 for waterbeds for his cows to enable a relaxing sleep. Skeptical at first, the cows adjusted. I guess cows might be smarter than I thought. I could adjust to this too.
On a regular basis now, dairy farmers are adjusting heat and light to keep cows happy. In addition to water beds and piped in music, this might also include large rotating brushes to scratch their backs and massage them and misting them in the barn to keep them cool.
The myth of the “contented cow” actually is not a myth. Milk production is measured in pounds/day, not gallons. It seems that a “contented cow” may increase milk production from 80 pounds/day to 90 pounds/day. On an industry-wide basis, this is a huge increase in production and worth the investment in “contented cows”.
Where else would “contentment” be a productive goal?