Dirty cows have a negative impact on milk quality, which includes greater chances of mastitis and an increase in somatic cell count. Dirty cows usually mean dirty tails; dirty tails can come from dirty stalls. Long tails are here to stay since the ban of tail docking. But managing manure for cow hygiene is more automated than it’s ever been.
Automated alley-scraper systems have been successfully used on livestock farms for decades to keep freestalls and cows clean. Many farmers who produce high-quality milk have cows with long tails. They make management of their automated alley-scraper systems a priority to avoid tail entanglement or animal injury.
Manage an alley-scraper system to help ensure cows are safe and clean.
- Check the control-panel load sensor seasonally to monitor the scraper system’s power. Monitoring its power will limit the chance of creating extremely high cable tension and help to notice abnormal power spikes.
- Manage control-panel settings for proper sensitivity, especially during dry conditions or when bedding stalls.
- Properly adjust the tension of the scraper cable, rope or chain system to prevent scrapers from jumping around and potentially pinching a tail against a curb.
- Leave 1 inch between scraper wing and curb to help prevent pinching tails.
- Consider having a scraper wing with a roller for offset alleys or to keep the blade tip touching the curb.
- Choose a blade that has smooth surfaces near the stall beds because they make it more difficult to snag a loose strand of hair.
- Take care of sharp edges, protruding bolts or pinch points immediately to reduce injury to cows.
Manage freestalls to help ensure cows are safe and clean.
- Be sure the brisket board is in its proper position — typically 65 to 72 inches ahead of the rear curb — to allow cows to move ahead in the stall. That adjustment will allow cows to have more of their body in the stall. It may require more frequent cleaning of the stall bed because the chance of manure in the rear third of the stall may increase.
- Maintain a fly-abatement program and ensure proper airflow to reduce the presence of flies. That reduces the likelihood of a cow to swing her tail and leave it in the alley.
- Adjust scraper run times to align with milking, feeding or pushing up feed to reduce the chance of a cow lying in the stall at scraping times.
- Alter feeding patterns to align with the scraper position in pens.
Other management considerations include having safety glasses for employees to prevent tail switches from harming their eyes during milking. Having a tail-trimming protocol that works for the dairy’s schedule is also beneficial. Visit www.gea.com for more information.