It’s no surprise that Habasit’s success spans a wide range of fields, but in todays’ blog, we will explore an unexpected – and shall we even say – ‘moo-ving’ – product development that begins with the story of a very special bovine.
Elm Farm Ollie was the first cow to ever take flight. Also known as Nellie Jay or Sky Queen, the cow was taken up by an airplane on February 18, 1930 on the occasion of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Scientists wanted to observe the effects of mid-air milking. The Sky Queen apparently produced 22 liters of milk during the 116 km flight, enough to fill several paper cartons which were then parachuted down to the audience below.
Despite the success of this strange expedition, cows’ productivity is usually improved when all four feet are on the ground. The happier the cow, the faster the milk will flow. The most industrious bovines can produce up to 95 liters a day – the equivalent to 400 glasses of milk, but this is only possible under the most ideal conditions. That is why the innovative cow mattresses made of Habasit fabric belt material are an important contribution.
Where things stand for the average cow
In their natural habitat, cows will spend 12 to 15 hours a day lying in lush, soft pastures with plenty of natural padding. The carpet of grass is not just a luxury but a necessity. Each time a cow kneels or lies down, he is leveraging an average of 600 kg of body weight and risking an inevitable freefall of up to one foot. The animal’s front carpal joints take the brunt of the repeated impact and when one considers that a cow stands up or lies down approximately twenty times a day, it becomes clear that a lenient landing can be an important contribution to the cow’s overall health. Unfortunately, dairy cows aren’t often allowed the advantages of a wide cushion of grass. Instead they are given the hard alternative of the unforgiving floor of a barn. The animals are less likely to lie down when every descent means crashing against concrete, and the frequent friction can cause skin sores and abrasions. The animals’ resting time is reduced to 8 to 10 hours a day which increases the risk of lameness, infertility, and long-term problems with the hooves. If a cow is spending too much time standing, it will inevitably eat and drink less as well as produce a decreasing amount of milk. Circulation to the udder improves by 30% when the animal is lying down, so even if it looks like a cow is being lazy, the milk is likely on its way.
A comfortable alternative to a plane ride
The mattresses are formed with a PVC covered belt that is sealed in a loop and stuffed with hay to provide a comfortable padding where the cow can lounge. The belt has been carefully selected for its high strength which can withhold the body weight and the sharp pressure of the hooves. This is no small matter considering that a cow can drink the equivalent of a bathtub of water and eat an average of 20 kg of food a day. The NAB-12EEDV 11 belt has to be soft yet extremely durable to withstand the bulk of the cow. With an easily cleanable surface, the material is also safe and smooth to prevent injury from slipping or constant rubbing against the skin.
Contrary to popular belief, a cow can be a highly emotional creature with the capacity to bond and even to hold a grudge, and thus there are a multitude of conditions which influence her productivity. One study done in the UK revealed that cows who were called by name and given individual attention had a higher yield of milk than those who were treated as anonymous among the crowd. Like a bad high school slumber party, cows even organize their own sleeping arrangements according to the hierarchy of the herd.
Fortunately, the animal’s tendency toward pettiness also translates into an aptitude for enthusiasm. One study showed that when cows find a resolution to a problem, such as opening a barn door to where their dinner waits, the creatures’ heartbeat escalates, the brainwaves show excitement and there are often one or two leaps of delight.
Habasit hopes that the mattresses will inspire similar elation as the company seeks to create a softer landing for the cows not fortunate enough yet to fly.