[Article from ScrapBook No 4, 2012]
A well rested and content person perform better at work and in the everyday life. This statement is generally accepted - why would not the same be true for animals? The vision of Erri-Comfort A/S is to improve the cow’s well being by providing the best possible care and nutrition advice as well as functioning products for cow owners and milk producers. By merely increasing the cow’s comfort studies has shown that the milk production increases by 10%. For this purpose, Erri-Comfort has designed and patented a revolutionary cow mattress filled with either recycled tyres (i.e. rubber granulate) or recycled PE (polyethylene) foam.
Waste tyres – large problem with limitless possibilities
Used tyres are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste today, due to the large volume produced and its durability. In 2010 over 3,3 million ton of used tyres are generated in Europe according to the ETRMA (European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturer Association). In the U.S. the corresponding number was 300 million tyres, according to ISRI (Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries). This is approximately one tyre per person a year.
During the last 10-15 years countries world wide has begun to legislate to prevent misuse of landfills. The European Union has legislated on landfill to reduce the negative effect it has on the environment (the Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC).
Later on they also legislated more specifically upon using complete and shredded tyres as landfill (2000/53/EC). This naturally had a great impact on the tyre recycling industry in Europe, and the rest of the world, and many new opportunities have been created for tyre scrap.
Those same characteristics which make waste tyres such a large waste problem also make them one of the most re-used waste materials. As the rubber is very resilient, it can be reused in other products. The rubber granulate or powder which are the outcome of tyre recycling, have many attractive benefits such as flexibility, strength and combustibility.
Animal health in relation to production
By improving the cow’s physical and physiological health and comfort, the risk of illness will decrease, and the general well being is increased. A cow starts to produce milk (lactation) when she has give birth to a calf, and continue to do so for about 10 months. Every day she produce about 25 litres of milk, and since the calf only need half of it, the rest available to use in consumer products like milk and cheese. Even though the milk production is a very complex process, it takes a fairly simple product to increase that production.
The vision of Erri-Comfort A/S is to improve the cow’s general well being by advising the milk producer on the subject and supplying well functioning products. The founder and owner of Erri-Comfort, Jørn Erri, has been a veterinarian with focus on cattle for the last 25 years. He has been an active milk producer with a herd of 60 cows, for 13 years, and later also co-owner of ECCO Holstein. Since many years he has also become a consultant for some cattle herds.
The comfort of a cow is basically based upon having a clean, dry and comfortable soft bed. Approximately 500 litre of blood needs to circulate the cow’s body in order to produce 1 litre of milk. It has been documented that if a cow that lie down blood circulation increase by 10%, compared to standing up. This means that if a cow lies down more, it will produce more milk! Therefore the Erri-Comfort cow mattress was developed to best meet the cow’s natural way of movement and its physical and physiological needs.
According to Jørn the product which is most popular, in regards of improving the cattle’s health and preventing cattle illness, are the Erri-Comfort Cow Mattress filled with either rubber granulate or granulated PE (polyethylene) foam.
Erri Comfort Cow Mattress
The Erri-Comfort Cow Mattresses bring the feeling of grazing grass in the fields into the barn. The floor of the cubicles feel more comfortable than the traditional concrete floor, and the time of rest for the cow is increased remarkably. When the cow step on the mattress and it is lowered about 3.6 cm, the mattress decrease the painful effects on her knees by approximately 84%, compared to standing on an ordinary floor. The flexibility in the mattress also makes it easier for the cows to lie down and to get up, and therefore the strain on the fore knees decreases. The blood flow through the udder increases and milk production goes up.
“Farmers, who have installed a small number of Erri-Comfort mattresses, say that the cows compete fiercely for the cubicles with Erri-Comfort mattresses in it” says Jørn. “One farmer tells about the young cows, which after they had been milked, went directly to the mattresses without eating in order to secure a cubicle. Another farmer reports that the cows resting in the cubicles with the Erri-Comfort mattress get their tails stepped on by other cows that try and force themselves onto the comfortable mattress”.
The cow mattress basically consists of two layers of polystyrene bags. The polystyrene bags consist of three material, packed cells containing rubber granulate or PE (polyethylene) foam, which are about 15-20 cm apart. When the two polystyrene bags are put on top of each other, they together constitute one entirety which is approximately 13 cm thick. For the comfort of the cow the mattress can be either dense or permeable.
Cow Mattress including rubber granulate
The first type of cow mattress is filled with rubber granulate produced from waste tyres. One cubicle consists of 4 polystyrene bags á 30 kg of rubber granulate. For one cubicle of about 128 kg rubber granulate it takes approx. 210 kg waste tyre (since about 60 % of the tyre is rubber) – i.e. approximately 10 tyres.
The result of the cow mattresses containing rubber granulate has been well documented externally. “Research made by the magazine Bovilogisk Tidsskrift (June 2002) show that cows which use our granulate mattresses produce 3 kg more milk per day” says Jørn. “Since I have been a veterinarian for 25 years, I am not surprised. The physical and physiological well being effect performance with both humans and animals. Imaging that you would have to sleep on a cold concrete floor, and work the next day…”
There are advantages in using rubber granulate for mattresses. “The rubber granulate is durable, and is pretty much impossible to ware out. By using larger sizes in rubber granulate fluids can easily disappear through the mattress, and the cow is kept cooler if it is warm inside the barn, and warm if it is cold” says Jørn. “When walking into a room where the cows have cow mattresses you are struck by the fact that is it incredibly quit, since one characteristic of rubber as a material is that it is sound absorbing. The absorbed sound in combination with happy cows results in a quit environment. My wife usually says that it is like walking into a church.”
The Erri-Comfort cow mattress is the softest mattress on the market, and they remain soft. The first Erri-Comfort Mattresses containing rubber granulate were installed in 1993 and they are still functioning, and remain soft. The channel-stitched mattresses will last a lifetime, and just the top fabric cover has to be changes every 6-7 years.
Environmental concerns – utilizing the resources
For a barn with 100 cows almost 15 ton of rubber granulate is used – i.e. approximately 1000 waste tyre. Even though the mattresses last forever an eventual disposal will be completely environmentally friendly. After use they are burned in an incineration plant, which is a highly suitable end-use since rubber has a great heating value.
Each year Erri-Comfort acquire about 1,000 ton recycled rubber granulate from waste tyre recyclers in e.g. Denmark and Holland. “The quality of the granulate is very important to us– it has to be as pure as possible. The larger the granulate the better, since it is more elastic and the fluids can pass down through the mattress” says Jørn. “Most of the tyre recyclers we acquire rubber granulate from use Eldan equipment. As a highly demanding customer of the rubber granulate it is urgent for us to know what we get. Eldan recycling equipment has a great reputation within the industry. When we purchase rubber granulate produced in their equipment we know that we get granulate which is 99,9% free from steel and textile. This is of utter importance to us since we want the filling to be distributed evenly and not to clot in the mattresses. The vulcanized rubber granulate has water resistant properties, therefore the water activity is kept at a low level, in order to hinder the bacteria from growing.” Erri Comfort containing rubber granulate is today exported to Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Chile and the Scandinavian countries.
Cow Mattress including PE (polyethylene) foam
In 2006 Erri-Comfort decided to expand the production program to also include Cow Mattresses filled with PE (polyethylene) foam. Within the wind mill industry, PE foam is used to ensure a stable construction in the foundation of the wind turbines. Only desired forms are cut from the PE foam sheets. This means that the majority of the sheets, which is not used, is considered waste. Since PE foam has many features which are well suited for the environment in a cow stable, Erri-Comfort decided to downsize the waste PE foam intro a suitable size for filling cow mattresses.
In 2006 a Fine Granulator (FG952) and a Tumble Back Feeder was acquired from Eldan Recycling. “We had heard good things about Eldan since we already at that time purchased rubber granulate for the cow mattresses. By acquiring Eldan equipment we knew that we would get great Danish quality in regards to both the machinery and service” says Jørn.
”The patented mattresses, filled with PE foam, have been a great success. We have not even started to market them, yet we send sold mattresses the same day they are produced” says Jørn. “I assume that it is since there has been more focus within the industry on the correlation between the health of the cow, and the amount of milk and calves they produce. If healthy animals give you a greater yield, then health become more important than before.”
Provide the cows with comfort, and they will pay with higher yield
It has been documented that content and healthy cows produce more milk. Research has also shown that cows which are rested and feel better are able to give birth to more calves, and undergo more lactations than the average. In Denmark the average number of lactations (and calvings) per cow is 2,5. By using the cow mattress the number increase to about 4 lactations (and calving’s). Happy cows will give you a higher yield!
“...by acquiring Eldan equipment we knew that we would get great Danish quality in regards to both the machinery and service.” Jørn Erri