Do We Need More Space?

A new study aims to find the balance between dairy production and cow welfare by evaluating the additive effect of stocking density and other stressors for dairy cows. Peter Krawczel, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, is leading the project in conjunction with the Miner Institute and with funding from the USDA. The goal is to find the optimal stocking densities for a variety of settings while still promoting health and productivity.

“This research will build upon established knowledge to drive the dairy industry forward while educating students and bettering animal welfare,” says Krawczel.

In the past, research that focused on stocking densities used incremental increases in cattle populations and held all other factors such as nutrition and temperature constant. This work has given dairy farmers some idea of densities at which their cows will best perform, but these studies do not account for factors that vary greatly from farm to farm and day to day. By varying temperatures, feeds, and other stressors while adjusting herd densities, Krawczel’s project will more accurately simulate today’s farms by displaying the cumulative effects of various stressors. Krawczel hopes the results will give farmers a more accurate guide in managing their herd size.

Krawczel says he takes pride in this project’s contribution to the university’s charge as a land-grant institution. The work will take place at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center where students can be trained in research and animal care while contributing to applied research of significant importance to today’s producers. The applicability and learning opportunities presented by this research make this an exciting project for the University of Tennessee, the Miner Institute, and the dairy industry.

Anna Ingleburger