No more lame excuses - getting dairy farm roadways up to speed is not rocket science
Winter provides us with an ideal opportunity to assess the conditions of our farm roadways and to take remedial action.
Having walked on numerous farm roadways over the past few weeks, there are very few farmers who don't need to improve the conditions of their farm roadways.
New Zealand lameness expert, Neil Chesterton, visited Ireland during the summer to give a number of courses on cow lameness throughout.
One of his key observations on cows' walking behaviour was that cows walk with their heads down so that they can identify a smooth part of the roadway to place their hooves, avoiding any sharp stones.
Coupled with this, the cow's rear foot will land in the exact same position as the front foot, allowing all four hooves to land on a smooth surface avoiding injury to the hoof.
Many farm roadways I have walked over the past few weeks are well constructed with mostly smooth surfaces, but invariably at some stage along the roadway you will find a section immersed in about three inches of water/muck.
When I ask the farmers in question what the cow's reaction is when she encounters this area, the answer is always the same: "she stops". As the cow can no longer see where she is placing her hoof, she is nervous of damaging her hooves and the natural instinct is to stop.
This is detrimental to both hoof health and to cow flow. Herding cows from the paddock to the parlour is one of the most time consuming tasks on most farms and messy sections of farm roadways add significantly to the time taken.