In new builds consider the integration of additional facilities – this ensures the best use of space and that the yarding system can cope with the full range of activities required.
The following factors will help cow flow:
- Wide, clear, well-lit pathways.
- Allowing visual contact with other animals moving ahead, so that cows can follow others.
- Clear, unobstructed views towards the exit, or where cows are meant to move.
- Blocking or screening any views of stationary cattle adjacent to a race, as this will slow movement.
Things to avoid
- Sudden changes in lighting, floor surfaces/textures, floor levels and fence or wall types.
- Changes in race construction materials or floor types e.g. slats to concrete.
- Walls painted in more than one colour (avoid contrasts).
- Changes at critical points along the route, such as gates, pen exits, corners and entrances to the race or tracks.
- Moving or flapping objects along the route.
- Noisy, dusty or uncomfortable environments.
- Solid (or painful) projections or obstructions.
- Places where painful procedures have occurred.
Head bails and crushes
Head bails need to allow easy and safe access to all parts of the cow.
A crush or head bail is essential for safely restraining cattle when carrying out herd health procedures. The design must ensure that cattle are held securely. This is particularly important for large herds in which large numbers of cows are treated for lameness or calving difficulties.
When designing a head bail ensure:
- The crush or head bail is accessible from the dairy exit race or holding pen.
- All parts of the cow are easily and safely accessible for treatment within the restraint.
- Head bails have a quick release so that if a cow goes down it will not be suffocated.
Herringbone style AI races should be designed like the left hand side of the herringbone.
Although efficient time-wise, dairies can be uncomfortable and dangerous places for handlers (e.g. vets and AI technicians) to work. Also, the association of painful procedures to the dairy can affect future milk let-down, so painful procedures are best performed elsewhere.
A race is often a more convenient and practical place to carry out activities such as: artificial insemination (AI), pregnancy diagnosis and drenching.
When designing an AI race include these features:
- Space in front of and behind restrained cows to allow access for handlers.
- The race should be sized to hold batches that are easy to handle i.e. about 20 at a time, to reduce loading and unloading hassles.
- In herringbone dairies:
- Put the AI race next to the herringbone rather than in front or behind.
- If the race is a herringbone style it should be like the left hand side of a herringbone, as this suits AI technicians.
When designing a loading ramp include these features:
- Sufficiently narrow that a cow cannot turn around.
- Lead up to a level platform, so that cattle can balance before entering and after leaving the truck.
- The ramp should have a slope not exceeding 20 degrees and the loading race should be 800mm wide with a non-slip surface.
- Cows will avoid walking directly towards bright light and dislike being above the ground. Face the cattle ramp away from the sun and use solid fencing so the cows can’t see out of the side.
- When loading cattle there should be no space where cows might get their feet stuck between the ramp and the back of the truck.
The position of the cattle ramp should not interfere with the functions of gates, races and other existing facilities.