Happy cows: 'Get them on grass, off concrete'

YAMHILL, Ore. -- Each day that dairy farmer Bob Bansen strolls down to the pastures of his farm, he greets each of his jersey cows by name.

"This is Victoria here, and Davita next to her. This cow her name is Glitter," Bansen said, gesturing to a cluster of cattle grazing on a knoll. "Next to her, her name is Topsy. Then we've got Peroxide over there."

The 230 cows make up the livestock component of Organic Valley Dairy in Yamhill.

Bansen said the trick is really coming up with different names for each without getting repeats.

"For me, it's just a way to give them a little bit more attention - just gives me a little more connection with them," Bansen said.

Bansen added that giving his cows that kind of treatment is what sets Organic Valley apart from the competition.

"Generally dairies don't pasture their cows, and my cows are outside every day possible. Get them on grass, off concrete," said Bansen.

The cows get to graze from sun-up to sun-down, consuming nearly 40 pounds of grass each day. The more the cows consume, the more milk - and more profit - for Bansen's herd.

Bansen said that this is different than having his cows feed on grains inside of a barn like some other dairy farms in America.

It is a trend for many organic farm owners: getting their livestock on a diet consistent with nature.

That goes for animal health care, too.

"We have ways to treat the cows without using any antibiotics that still maintains their health," Bansen said.

Instead of antibiotics, Bansen gives his cows Aspirin, vitamin injections, and other organic products.

Organic farmers
believe these methods help keep a cow's stress level down and the quality of milk up.

"My herd is healthier than it was before and I'm happy about that," Bansen said.

For Bansen, it's about keeping the cows happy as well.

"They have the freedom they want and the food they need," Bansen said. "It works both ways, they give me something and I try to give them back everything I can."

So the next time you pour that glass of Organic Valley Milk, chances are it might have come Victoria or Emma.

But no matter which cow, if it came from Bansen's farm, you can bet it was a happy one.