Handling Cattle around Robotic Milkers
By: Steve Halahan
Safety is a priority in the work we do, and we share that with everyone we cross paths with on a given day. Much has been written about handling cows on their way to the parlor and in the holding area, but less information is available on ways to stay safe on robotic milking dairies. Milking cows with robots presents some unique challenges in cow movement, and these are several principles I encourage my customers to keep in mind.
Everything starts with cow flow. Cows all come in one way and they all exit one way. It is important that those working in the robot area know the general flow of the animals, so that they don’t cause stress on the cows being milked. The only way cows can exit the holding area (not the robot itself) is if they’re successfully milked. Keeping the correct flow will keep animals calm. Remember, cows are coming to the robot on their own so to cause a stressful environment decreases visits and ultimately profit. The free-flow system was specifically designed for a hands-off approach and many dairymen have commented to me that the cows “seem to do better when we are either out of the barn or away for an extended period of time.”
You’re still working with cows. All the principles for safely handling animals applies to cows in a robotic milking environment. Remember these three tips:
- The calmer you are, the calmer the cows will be. Do not scream, yell or push cows hard. Remaining calm, and walking slow, will help the cattle also remain calm.
- Wear boots and/or footwear with good traction. Slipping, tripping and falling is at a higher risk in the robot milking area because of non-rubber and uneven surfaces.
- Remain visible. While you do not want to cause a stir amongst the cows, remaining visible can help others see you better if an issue does occur.
In a future blog, we will look at working safely in and around the milking unit.