Following the suggestions in this section will help you to:
- Increase work efficiency and reduce stress on people and cows.
- Reduce lameness and injuries.
Bringing Cows To The Dairy
Cows with their heads raised are a sign that too much pressure is being placed upon the herd. Understanding how cows’ senses and their social behaviours affect their interpretation and reaction to stimuli will help in the development of good handling practices.
In the first image below, the herdsperson is too close to the cows. The cows’ heads are raised as a result of pressure from the herdsperson. They can no longer watch where they place their feet, or avoid more dominant cows. In the second image, the cows are walking with their heads down so they can see where to put their feet.
Cow Senses and Behaviours
- If cows have their heads up when they are shifted or in the yard they are too tightly packed. - Reduce the pressure on them.
- Movement in groups is best - cows will follow their herd mates.
- Always use patience when assembling and herding cows, and move cows gently over tracks and through gateways.
- Everyone should be trained in basic stockmanship skills.
- Avoid using dogs unless they are particularly quiet. If you are using a dog leave it tied up away from the dairy yard.
- Talk to cows to keep them moving, but don’t frighten them. Use positive interactions such as a stroke, rub, or gentle contact.
- Use separate herds for heifers and older cows, especially on farms with large herds. Although they will form a social hierarchy within their own herds, this will help prevent excessive bullying.
- If the herd stops, do not put pressure on the rear cows. They will not move if the dominant cows in front of them have stopped. Move to the front of the herd and encourage the front cows to continue moving.
- Make rules e.g. people on bikes should not be closer than two fenceposts behind the last cows. Make sure everyone knows the rules.