Neil Chesterton VET Services, New Zealand
Management on the track
Allow the herd to drift to the shed by keeping outside the flight/fight distance of the herd. It doesn't matter if you are walking or on a bike, the rules are the same. Be careful with bigger vehicles (utes and tractors) - the distance behind the herd should be extended. Talk, sing or even shout at the cows to keep them moving, but do not frighten them. If a dog is used, it's alright for it to bark but not frighten the cows.
Management in the shed
The herd enters the shed with a minimum of 1.3 square metres for Jersey cows and 1.4 to 1.5 square metres for Friesian cows (depending on their size and the design of the shed).
The backing gate should not be moved until at least two rows are milked (15 minutes minimum) – this allows cows to rearrange into a milking order. If the gate is moved too early cows have to force their way between their herd mates to find their milking position – foot damage results.
Install a bell on the gate so the cows know when it is moving because cows are creatures of habit.
Management of the tracks
The design of tracks determines the voluntary walking speed of the herd. Where cows have a well drained, non abrasive surface to walk on that is wide enough for the size of the herd the average flow rate may be up to 4.5 km per hour.
The most common problem area of tracks is at the junction with concrete. Water pools, fine materials are washed away and gravel is carried onto the concrete. Cow flow dramatically slows down if this area is not maintained.
Sharp bends and narrowing of the track, loss of the fine top layer, poor drainage and gravel on concrete all cause disruption to the flow of a herd.
Collecting yard and milking parlour
The most common problems with the collecting yards are:
- the entrance is in the wrong place in relation to the bail entry;
- the collecting yard is too small for the number of cows (min 1.5 sq m per cow)
- the concrete is slippery;
- concrete slopes are too steep;
- sideways slope of the concrete approaching the milking parlour or on the exit;
- sharp bends;
- dark sheds;
- stray electricity;
- poor gate designs – motorised backing gates that are too fast (12m/min in round yards, 6 m per min in rectangular yards);
- sharp turns at the exit from the bails; and
- Pipe-work that will injure hips.
Where there are design problems on the track and in the milking parlour area it is still possible to achieve reasonable cow flow if the stockmen understand where the problems are. Patience is the answer until the facility can be upgraded.
Because cows are creatures of habit, improvements in stockmanship will not result in immediate improvement in cow flow. Our experience is that retraining usually takes four to six weeks of determination with the older cows. The younger cows learn more quickly. Both facilities and stockmanship are vital elements in achieving good cow flow, and in lameness management.
Neil Chesterton will be presenting a seminar on the July 26 at Dookie - see coming events on the front page