Cows Who Sleep Better Produce Better Milk

We could talk about the benefits of sleep for humans until the cows come home, but did you know that cows also need quality rest in order to produce the milk we love?

Cows rest for roughly 14 hours per day, but spend only four of those hours actually sleeping… and not even in one go. (Despite being cows, they’re expert at cap naps.) Rest is a major component of healthy milk production: It’s a time where cows can properly digest their food and let their feet rest and dry from roaming. Blood circulation throughout the cow’s udders also increases, which is integral for producing milk.

A cow’s stall situation also has to be optimized for quality resting too or they risk developing issues like hocked rear legs (splayed feet) and mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue).

A farmer says his cows' milk production has increased since he bought them waterbeds.

Cows, like humans, need a bed that’s spacious and supportive, is easy on pressure points, and is designed to stay dry to avoid unwanted bacterial growth. They also require a sufficient amount of R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep, as being deprived will result in irritability and poor milk production. Furthermore, lack of quality sleep can increase negative energy balance, a reduced immune system, and increased mortality.

All this to say: A well-rested cow will produce quality milk. And if it hasn’t been apparent throughout this cow-centric discussion, humans and cows are nearly identical when it comes to sleep needs and when sleep isn’t prioritized: low-quality output due to a poor sleep experience.

The proof is in the pudding: getting a good night’s rest on a consistent basis is important, so what are you waiting for? Optimize your sleep situation so you spend less time counting sheep—or cows—and more time dreaming.