Cows, Waterbeds, and Bovine Sleeping Habits

Update Feb. 2016: What Do Cows Want?
This rancher says “grass fed” and “pastured” are buzz words consumers want to hear, but he contends that animals perceive them differently at times.

Nightwalkers with Hooves

One night when I was seventeen, I woke up on the front lawn, a kaleidoscope of stars overhead, a light summer breeze keeping the dew off the grass, and me in my sleeping bag—that is, me along with a small herd of cattle wandering around in the dark, near enough so I could see that crazed gleam of freedom in their eyes. I occasionally slept under the stars, and our feedlot cattle occasionally did jail breaks, but the two occurrences had never coincided before, so this had me panicked. My dad and brothers probably helped me herd them back in, and I imagine I finished the night inside where I was less likely to get stomped by hooves while sleeping—although my younger brothers had their moments as stampeders. 

Happy Cow on Waterbed
Even back when I lived on the farm, I didn’t give much thought to the sleeping habits of cows. I’d see them in that classic position with legs tucked under and cuds a chewin’, or they might stand still in the fields looking as if they were waiting for someone to tip them over. Grass, straw, or mud in the feedlot seemed to work just fine for them. I did pay attention to our old Guernsey milk cow’s sleeping cycle because you couldn’t milk her if she was asleep; but aside from those twenty minutes twice a day, we let her find the freshest bedding so she could dream what it would be like to live without teenage boys tugging at her udder.
Get Your Cow a Waterbed

Now I read about farmers in Ohio who provide waterbeds for their milk cows.  And wouldn’t you know it, they rationalize it enough to make me think that maybe it’s a good idea. They reckon that healthy, happy cows turn out more milk of a higher quality. The owners of the farm doled out $70,000 to rig up waterbed stations for 240 cows, but they think they will recoup their costs in three years.

Apparently, cows in 18 countries enjoy the comforts of waterbeds; the trend began in Europe 15 or 20 years ago. I can picture a French Holstein lying back on the bed, cigarette holder in one hoof, a glass of white wine on the nearby three-legged stool, a copy of Le Monde opened to the funny pages. The Ohio farmers laugh at the good-natured ribbing they’ve received, but they swear that comfortable, content cows make them more money. Happy cows equal happy farmers.
So now I realize why our cattle went walkabout so often: They were just looking for a better place to get a good night’s sleep.  by dan gogerty  (photo:  

Click here to view a video that includes interviews with the farmer and a happy cow.

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