At Shatto Milk, comfy cows mean better business

It's not about pampering, but getting more milk

CLINTON COUNTY, Mo. - Shatto Milk is one of the best known names in Kansas City. They started bottling milk nearly a decade ago. In that time, they've learned that a happy, comfortable worker is more productive.

For the humans, sure. But especially for the cows.

After 37 years as a dairy farmer, Leroy Shatto knows that having comfy cows isn't pampering, it's business.

"The more comfortable they are, the more milk they're going to give," Shatto said. "That's just no question about it."

A few months ago, Shatto moved about half of his cows to a new barn where they spend most of their time.

The new barn boasts several modern amenities. A tractor leaves feed where they can easily eat until they're full, and they have access to all the water they want. The cows rest in beds of sand, not dirt.

"It forms to your body," Shatto described. "It's very comfortable on their legs."

Fans will keep the cows cool once they're installed. And a radio in one of the barn sends music through the next barn.

"We work better with a little bit of background, too, and you're right, I think that does make a difference," Shatto said.

The plain fact is that Shatto spends $2,000 a day on feed, plus other operating expenses. This milk and the products he makes with it have to pay for that.

He's heard of other farms that use waterbeds and chiropractors and doesn't see that in his future.

"I probably couldn't afford them anyway," Shatto said.
Experience says he's on the right track.

"I would say those cows down there, when we moved them in there, were giving 15-20 percent more than the cows in these other barns."

That's an extra gallon every day from each cow. Multiply that times more than 400 cows and trucking in a little sand is worth it.

Shatto also says his changes are even more important with summer coming. When it reaches more than 70 degrees, milk production goes down, so anything that helps will be welcome.

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