NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. (WIVB) – With Daylight Saving Time here again, a lot of us may have found ourselves dragging on Sunday, adjusting to an hour less of sleep after the clocks sprang ahead an hour overnight.
It’s not just people, though, who have to adjust.
Dairy cows are also creatures of habit, and the time change can take some getting used to for them.
“I wouldn’t say they’re grumpy, but usually when we get here in the morning, they’re ready to go, and today they lag a little bit behind more,” said Magdalene Richmond, whose family owns Richmond Farms Dairy in North Collins.
Every day, 200 cows are milked at the farm starting at 5:30 a.m. and keeping those cows feeling good is very serious business.
“We have a nutritionist that comes, like a dietician for humans, and they balance the diet,” Richmond explained. “With the feed that we have on hand, we take samples and get it analyzed, and then they come back and they adjust everything. They have sand beds in the cow barn, that’s very comfortable for them, and we make sure that they’re full, and keep them happy, clean water, fans in the summer.”
Bottom line: Happy cows make more milk, and that’s critical for a family farm’s bottom line. “This is our livelihood,” Richmond said. “They mean everything to us.”
And, with Daylight Saving Time heralding the arrival of spring, Richmond is looking forward to conditions that make her cows happier.
“Now that the days are getting longer and it’s going to start getting warmer, it will be better,” she said. “They can start going outside and opening all the windows and the curtains and getting fresh air.”
Even so, Richmond says this week, the cows probably won’t give as much milk as usual as they adjust to the new schedule.
Some dairy farmers try to make the time change less jarring for their animals by moving the milking times a little each day before the clocks change.
For the Richmond Farms Dairy cows, the change is done all at once, though.
They’re each milked three times a day, so there’s less pressure on their udders between milkings, and there’s less pressure on the farmhands to get them in at exactly the same time for the first milking on the first day of Daylight Saving Time.
“They don’t see a big difference,” Richmond said, when asked about how her cows adjust to the time change.
“For us it’s a big difference. We’re really tired,” she added.
On the other hand, Daylight Saving Time does bring the arrival of longer daylight hours, and that’s good news for the cows. More light keeps cows happier, and again, happy cows make more milk.
“They actually need about 16 to 18 hours a day of light,” Richmond said explained.
For farms with lights on timers in the barns, those timers should be adjusted with the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Richmond says their barns still have the lights on manual switches, so they don’t have to make any changes.
Of course, with the hour lost for the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, everyone gets an hour back when the clocks fall back later in the year. Richmond says, that takes another round of adjustments for the people and the cows, alike.