Cow waterbeds may boost farmers' bottom lines

8:42 AM, Jul 17, 2012   |    comments
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(KGW) -- An Oregon farmer is hoping cozy cows will help boost his bottom line, so he's installing bovine waterbeds.

It's the new thing in dairy farming.

It started out in Minnesota, has picked up steam in California, and now about four dairies in Oregon's Willamette Valley are using them.

The Van Loon Dairy installed more than 100 of the waterbeds back in January.

Farmer Ben Van Loon says these beds will pay for themselves.

"As the cow gets ready to lie down, water moves to the front bag where her knees will come first therefore cushion it more. Less sores, less cows being stuck. Happier cows, happier milk," said Van Loon.

The family liked these beds so much, they just bought another 200 for the rest of their cows, at a cost of nearly $100,000.

Even at that price, the beds' distributor has been busy.

"There's four or five dairies in the Willamette Valley that have them. It's really beginning to catch on around here," said Kevin Krous with NW Dairy Service.

Farmers say the traditional grass seed product they use for bedding continues to go up in price and is harder to find.

These beds are more sustainable and they don't harbor as much bacteria, costing the farmers less to treat the cows.

"Moisture and heat are your two enemies. Bacteria doesn't really grow on any rubber," Van Loon added.

Bacteria can take a cow off the line, costing the farmer thousands of dollars.

Cows that sleep on waterbeds seem to have fewer cases of bacteria.

"One case in six months compared to six or seven before," Van Loon said.

It all adds up to one thing.

"We have happier cows, happier milk," Van Loon said.

KGW

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