Zuniga Farm, in the city of Serranos, Minas Gerais state, has caught the attention of Brazilians as a result of a unique welfare method for its herd.
For some months now, some dairy cows have been wearing support straps beneficial to their udders. The straps or (loosely related) ‘bras’ are linked to animal welfare and health.
Veterinarian Eveline Zuniga manages her family’s property and explains how the straps cows support cow udders, and which leads to avoiding many problems. The farm has 194 animals, 104 cows are from Holstein breed, and the results seen have pushed her to develop it even further for cows.
Photo: Daniel Azevedo
“It can be really useful for the dairy sector, including elite cattle. Often an animal of high genetic value is discarded of, as it would not be able to produce milk for 1 or 2 more lactations due to udder ligament laxity. Thus, this can assist in the longevity of animals,” she said.
Despite facing a little resistance from employees who never heard or seen these straps, Eveline tested the straps with an old cow, with the middle ligament loosened. "The result was excellent, she felt more comfortable and mastitis severity was reduced," she says.
Discovery of the support straps
The discovery was made during her travels to Iceland mid last year when she visited a farm hotel. “While visiting the stables, I saw cows were wearing something that looked like a bandage all over their bodies and, in the udder region, it was something like a hammock,” she said.
Eveline's interest was piqued and the local manager explained that it was used with most animals in the region to ensure well-being. Eveline purchased the product.
The original concept helps during colder days in Europe, but as the winter in Minas Gerais is more like the Icelandic summer, she had to develop new versions.
The Brazilian version is made with cotton, has many options for adjustments and is very comfortable. According to Eveline, there has been no rejection of it by any cow. “Animals take a few hours to adapt. It does not cause discomfort, since the handles that pass through the animal's body are made of cotton. It also did not affect milking,” said.
Currently, these support straps are used on cows with ligament laxity. “We are adopting this as a measure for animal welfare. We use it in animals with very heavy udders, postpartum edema, since the pressure in the ligament increases at the beginning of lactation,” she adds.
In relation to mastitis, as a veterinarian, Eveline explains it is not related to the prevention but reduction of the severity of mastitis.
Photo: Daniel Azevedo
Other benefits include protection as animals are less likely to suffer accidental injuries on the farm. For now, she can’t say whether there is an increase in milk production due to this method. “As soon as we produce more, we can have a comparison of production before and after using the udder support,” she says.