Proper Holding Pen Management: The Most Stressful Area of the Dairy Farm
While the holding pen is a necessary part of your dairy operation, it can also be one of the biggest sources of stress and possible injury for your cows. However, with a few holding pen best practices in place, you can ensure that the time your cows spend in the pen is safe, comfortable, and as stress-free as possible.
Size the Pen Appropriately
Make sure your holding pen can accommodate your largest milking group comfortably, with room for expansion if you add to your herd. When your cows have adequate holding pen space, airflow is better, and the heatstroke risk goes down. J&D’s Make-A-Fence and Make-A-Gate product lines are easy ways to increase space will still confining cows as they wait to be milked.
Keep the Area Cool
In addition to plenty of space per cow, consider adding fans, sprinklers, or other shade to keep your herd cool while they wait. Keep in mind that sprinklers should operate with a light mist rather than a soaking level to help slow the spread of bacteria. Adding High Pressure Fogging to recirculation fans, or adding more recirculation fans to provide cooling in the holding pen is ideal.
Create Stable Surfaces
It’s no secret that holding pens get dirty quickly. In wet, bacteria-filled areas, cows are more likely to develop infections and foot issues or slip and fall in waste as it accumulates. Use grooved flooring or rubber mats to help your herd grip the floor. Wash this flooring regularly to reduce bacteria and check for hardening of any rubber mats that need to be replaced. J&D’s Rolled Rubber is perfect for the holding pen. The seamless rolls are easy to install and it has a slip resistant hammered texture for maximum traction. Rolled Rubber is non-absorbent and will not promote bacteria growth.
Reduce Holding Pen Time
Cows are happiest when they are eating or resting. Since neither is a comfortable option in the holding pen, try to minimize the time your cows spend waiting to be milked. Aim for less than 60 minutes at a time and bring up fewer cows at one time to keep the pen less crowded and wait time at a minimum.
Holding pens don’t have to be an unpleasant experience for your herd. Follow these simple guidelines to keep your cows happy, healthy, and producing plenty of milk.