Avoiding Lameness by Optimum Cow Flow Part 1

Lameness can be caused by white line disease or from a sole injury and cow flow can have a big impact on the levels of lameness in a herd. This is particularly relevant when the herd is spending a proportion of its time either housed or on a feedpad, rather than out on pasture. 

Here are some simple points to look for to help avoid lameness issues in your herd.

1. Cows are creatures of habit

Cows respond positively and flow better if they have a consistent routine. Voices, herding technique, milking technique, moving the top gate and backing gate, must all be done in the same way by all those that move the cows and milk them. All routines should be the same every day. 

2. Watch cows heads

When the herd is walking with their heads raised it means they are under too much pressure and are being hurried along. With their heads up, they will not be able to see where to place their foot, taking its next step or be able to avoid dominant cows. With heads raised they will be unable to avoid standing on stones or slipping.

Raised heads is a sign that the herd is being pushed too hard and they should be allowed to spread out and walk at a slower pace. Cow flow is best when cows are allowed to walk confidently with their heads down.

3. Dominant cows set the walking speed

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 and they will not overtake them. Applying pressure to the back of the herd does not increase the speed of the cow flow. Move to the front of the herd and encourage the front cows to continue moving.

4. Handle cows with care

Understand that cows have a wide 330deg panoramic vision, which means they don’t mind being approached slowly from the front or side but become frightened when you disappear behind them into their 30deg blind spot.

Cows also respond best to a higher friendly tone as they dislike harsh, low, or gruff voices.

5. Cows have a fight or flight distances

If the herd has learned to trust their handlers than the distance will be short. If you can find the flight distance of your herd and stay outside of it, compaction of the rear group of cows will be minimal.