Ensuring that there is adequate feed space and cubicles is going to be vital over the next few weeks on dairy farms.
Poor weather conditions will have hampered or delayed many farmers’ plans to get cows out to grass and start grazing for 2024.
For now, the vast majority of the cows’ dry matter intake (DMI) will be silage, and cows will remain in the shed in cubicles.
During the calving season, there can be a number of different groups of cows – with cows almost consistently moving between them.
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Space in sheds should be adjusted on a daily basis to ensure that there is enough space for each group.
The freshly calved group numbers could double in the space of a few days, and that means that feed space and cubicle beds also need to double.
Having enough cubicles and adequate space at the barrier is vital, as a cow should be lying down or eating about 70 percent of the time.
Too much time standing on concrete will adversely impact hoof health. Ideally, a cow should spend at least 12 hours/day lying down.
To maximise lying time for all cows and avoid bullying, the number of comfortable cubicles should exceed the number of cows in the shed by at least 5 percent.
Inadequate space at the feed barrier will mean more competition when feed is being put out.
Stronger, dominant cows will feed first, while weaker subordinate cows wait.
Competition at the barrier will also impact hoof health, due to the shearing forces applied when cows are pushing.
You may also encounter the issue of these cows losing too much condition, and struggling to regain that condition ahead of breeding.
It is advised to have at least 60cm of feed space/milking cow and 80cm/dry cow.
Two rows of cubicles with a parallel feed barrier offer an optimum in terms of feed space and cubicle access.