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A Waterbed? Take Care of your Cow, They'll Take Care of You - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

A Waterbed? Take Care of your Cow, They'll Take Care of You

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There's a farm about 50 miles east of Crookston out in Trail, Minnesota that's been in the dairy business for years. They're not a huge operation, compared to commercial farms, but they're definitely unique in the way they take care of their bread and butter, their livestock. Valley News Live let's you in on a little known secret in the dairy biz.

At the Wayra Dairy Farm in Trail, Minnesota Wayne and Debra Vettelson have taken on a profession that as old as it is, is constantly changing.

Debra Vettelson remembers when her and her husband had so few cows roaming they could name them all, "I still name them all. Not that they go by the names because they like numbers, I like names."

Back when they started 28 years ago, when they all had names. Even Wayne's father, a retired dairy farmer himself, was fascinated with the industries evolution.

Wayne Vettelson says it was fun for both him and his dad to watch the changes, "he was always anxious to come over here and see what was different. And he liked to see it, not that he wanted to milk the cows, but he liked to see it."

With nearly 300 cows going through the parlor three times a day, the Vettelsons have to think outside the box if they want to remain competitive. Which in this business boils down to milk quality and quantity.

"Well it's money that we make or lose because of quality." Wayne explains as we tour his 7 acre lot. His cows are producing better than ever after he's made some slight modifications to their living arrangements. "We're averaging per cow around 80 pounds per cow. Which is about 10 gallons per cow a day."

But not every cow is created equal. Some just have more to give, and they're rewarded for it. So how do they take care of their VIC's, very important cows? Each one of the top producers is equipped with a waterbed. 14 gallons of water in each stall. They have about 70 stalls all for their bread winners.

Wayne says he saw the waterbeds at a dairy convention, and couldn't see how they could be a bad thing; "the cows really like them. They took to them easily. The first time we watched cows get on em' you seen everything jiggle. They were stepping on that and it was different. They adapted to them very fast."

While the average cow produces 80 pounds of milk a day. The ones that lay in these luxurious quarters, come closer to about 95 pounds a day. The idea is simple, happier, more comfortable cows, give more.

Debra didn't see how a waterbed in Minnesota's winter could work, but they haven't had any problems yet. "When he first said he was gonna do it I said it's way too cold up here up north. But it's worked out very well."

Wayne just see's it as good business, "my cows take care of me so I better take care of them."

The old school beds can be hard on a cows hocks and knees. Getting up and down with all of that weight, day in and day out on a hard surface is tough on their oversized bodies. Wayne saw the beds as a chance to alleviate some of that daily grind for his cows. "There's some cheaper things too, but we've had some cheaper ones. And they may feel comfortable right away but they start getting compressed just from the weight of the cow being on them day after day. Pretty soon they're just as hard as the concrete they're laying on."

Not only are these cows producing more, but their living longer too. Their vet says giving a cow a comfortable bed can do as much as double it's life span. After going from just 10 cows in 1984 to milking 300 cows today, the Vettelsons know doing things differently is the only way to stay in the business.

"One of these days we have to slow down... But not yet I guess." Jokes Wayne as he undoubtedly has yet another idea brewing about how to get his cows to show him, they appreciate the extra comfort.

A good diet and a great place to sleep, that's all they ask for. We talked to the Vettelson's vet who told us in the past 15 years more and more dairy farmers are doing just like the Vettelsons. Trying to increase comfort for their cows with cozy types of bedding. All in an effort to get them to produce more milk. There not exactly cheap, each bed costs about 240 dollars. But can you really put a price on comfort?

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