Less stress lifts welfare and returns
IMPROVED cow management to cut stress caused by calving, high yields and poor housing design will improve fertility, reduce lameness and mastitis and increase profits.
Independent dairy consultant John Hughes advises concentrating on husbandry instead of continuing to push up yields, which could also help cows last longer.
"Do not aim for higher production unless you have the environment and management system that will be kind to cows," Mr Hughes told the conference delegates.
"We should also ask if there should be two types of cow for the UK, one for straw yards and another that is hardier and capable of walking longer distances."
Over the past 25 years cow size and yields have increased, with cows having to carry more weight between their legs. More effort is needed to get up and lie down, and more stress is being put on their feet.
But many still live in housing built 25 to 30 years ago where they are confined to beds which are too small and lack the cushion required to support the extra weight. Cows needed a cubicle that was big enough, without a head-rail, so they could easily lunge forward to stand up, he said.
Perhaps the best place for todays cow is a straw yard. That would be more comfortable, but good management was needed to reduce risk of mastitis infection.