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No more lame cows..

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  • No more lame cows..

    We have had many dairy farmers reporting less lameness when using our Batt-Latch timers. When asked directly, farmers recall that lameness was more prevalent before they used timers for herd release.

    But the other day, a NZ farmer using our timers reported that they have seen just two lame cows a year for the last two years.

    Sometimes races or dairy platforms are upgraded at the same time as timers start to be used, but we'd appreciate any feedback on observed changes to the incidence of lameness after using the timers regularly.

    We of course have asked DairyNZ to think about a twin controlled trial of a split herd, but their response so far has been that of course there will be an improvement in lameness incidence when using the timer, so why bother to do the research?

    Note that Novel Ways are not offering to pay for detailed research, because it would be too expensive for a smaller firm like us. We do think it would be a good use of levied research funds from dairy farmers however. After all, if dairy farmers saved even half of their average lameness costs, it would be over $10,000 x 10,000 farms in NZ alone, or $100mill saved p.a.
    Graham Lynch

  • #2
    Today we received some feedback on lameness from a farmer in Australia via our agent in Sydney, Roger Martyn of

    I was talking to a long time BL user on Friday (T).. He's a top of the line dairy farmer in Victoria with 400 cows, and several BL sales to his friends have resulted from his endorsements.
    He says he now simply does not go 'to get the cows', he just pushes them into the shed for the final part.
    He reports lameness is a non-issue for him. Last season he had 2 cows with foot ulcers, which he says were untreated from the season before when those 2 cows were in another herd. He says though, that foot treatment is a huge business in the area, with people set up full time as hoof specialists who go around treating animals, plus a plethora of mats, baths etc on the market for sore feet treatment. For T, it is simply a non-issue.
    He said he tends to have a lot of field-day sort of things happen at his farm, because big-wigs bring visitors etc because it is a good producing unit. He says they're often commenting that they can't understand how for such a large herd, T has the races so narrow. T says there is no need for them to be wider, the cows shift themselves, find their own way up the middle ridge of the race and do no damage to the fences. Why not have the room in the paddock instead he asks?
    T says the weather has been very wet lately on his farm. He simply sets the BL to go off earlier, the cows make their own way onto the race and wait it out 'till milking, strung well along the race, saving considerably on pugging in the pasture. T is the guy I mentioned before who says he can't understand why all farmers don't use them.
    As he said to me, I guess you've heard it all before, which we have, its just frustrating that others don't seem to get it.

    What Roger is alluding to, is that the pattern of uptake in Australia of new technology on farms is similar to that in NZ. It may take several years for farmers to individually try out something and slowly get their neighbours or family members to try it, then as farm workers move around, the technology is spread further.

    This is why it would be a good idea for industry-good bodies to test and report on private sector outputs for farmers. Especially in NZ, the market size for a lot of products is too small for the manufacturers to pay for this research, or to spend a lot on marketing. Collectively the farmers will reap most of the benefits of new technology, they are already paying research levies, and I can see no quicker or more effective use of those funds than to test and report on what has already been developed at no cost to the farming population.

    What if Batt-Latch timers used with appropriate farming systems could virtually remove the incidence of lameness on pastoral dairy farms? Would that not make for a great research paper? Would any dairy farmers be interested in that? Because the DairyNZ researchers certainly aren't displaying any intention to have a look at the idea. But they will arrange advice for farmers on how to spot, handle and treat lameness when it occurs. For a price of course (at least $1500 per farm, about the cost of four Batt-Latch timers).

    It is possible that some of the lameness prevention advice doled out during the farm visits from the Healthy Hoof Programme practitioners, mentions the use of our Batt-Latch timer. I wouldn't know this for sure, because I have never been shown the documentation. I have never been asked to supply any information to the programme, and none of the local providers have ever called in to say hello.

    A few years ago, a young DairyNZ (then Dexcel) scientist observed in a writeup for farmers, that lameness could be reduced if the herd were allowed to move to the dairy platform at their own pace. The proposed mechanism for this was to open the paddock gate manually, then have a cup of coffee or remove weeds in the paddocks, while the cows spent 45 minutes getting to the platform. I had to inform the DairyNZ scientist that we had been selling a timer to do that, for about 7-8 years. And that it was being manufactured less than a kilometre from DairyNZ's HQ in Newstead, Hamilton. While I have gifted DairyNZ one or two timers over the years, none are in use there, and I get no requests from staff members about them. From dairy farmers, yes, many are well ahead of DairyNZ on that one.
    Graham Lynch


    • #3
      Much of the content of the Healthy Hoof Programme has been provided from the work of Taranaki vet Neil Chesterton. In 2008 Dexcel put out a short pdf on the programme contents and findings, which looks very similar to the current programme.

      At the top of the list of advice: allow the cows to drift to the shed (for milking). No explanation about how that is to be done, without a staff member feeling that here's an hour of their life that they're not getting back, every milking. In any case it's hard to speed up the transition of the herd to the dairy without a great deal of noise and effort, and under these conditions new lameness cases are obviously created.

      The Batt-Latch timer does several things on each event:
      It reduces the stress of the herd because they can see that the timer will let them go at the right time, and that there will be new feed and water waiting somewhere.
      Every cow can decide when to leave the paddock, setting the correct order of the exit.
      All cows can choose to walk in single file with enough space between each other so they can watch where their feet are going.
      Any cows with slightly sore hooves can just take it a bit easier until the foot heals up by itself.
      The cows can be released earlier on wet days to stay out of the paddock and on the firm race crown, and in many cases cows are released to a feedpad area for about an hour before milking starts.
      Staff members save a lot of time during each release event, so they can recover from the previous day, and have more energy and goodwill in the middle of the day for valuable farm tasks.
      Cows can be held back after milking using the same timer, as there are up to four release times a day that can be saved. This ensures all of the herd get access to the best quality feed.

      There is a possibility that allowing cows to walk single file to the shed keeps their udders cleaner than normal, reducing the incidence of mastitis.

      More work from Neil Chesterton, proving that BDD is here in NZ.
      Graham Lynch


      • #4
        Here's a Rural Delivery article on lameness written in 2006, probably before the Healthy Hoof Programme was started. Many of the same good ideas and observations from Neil Chesterton, but again no mention that a timer can be used for the herd release, or the spectacular reductions that can be achieved.

        It looks like the most likely way the Batt-Latch timer release helps, is to reduce the gradual wear of the hooves in the races, as the cows will look after their hooves once given the chance, especially if they sense they're getting a bit worn down. This means they have a bit of hoof insurance when they get to the milking platform. Careful use of the backing gate or overhead gate in the holding yard is also important, and cows should not be forced to swivel their hooves on concrete if at all possible.
        Graham Lynch


        • #5
          A scientific trial was carried out in the South Island in 2002-2003, where the incidence of lameness is higher than in the North Island generally. Longer races, bigger herds. Wybe Kuperus was one of the researchers. They hoped to see significant decreases in lameness by feeding straw to the cows right through the milking season. The trial was messed up a bit when the average pasture cover got too low, so the control had to be fed supplements. There was a significant drop in lameness over Jan-April that most likely was the straw helping, but this was a drop of only say 30% in incidence. 17% of the 700-strong herd in total went lame during the season, that's 122 lame incidents.

          I wrote the former Dexcel nutritionist/scientist Wybe Kuperus a letter about our Batt-Latch gate timer when I saw these results. I said that more impressive results in reducing lameness could be obtained with a $400 timer, and asked if they'd be interested in checking it out. No reply. Wybe now runs an agribusiness consultancy service, and has worked with a firm supplying equipment for lame cows.

          If you do have lame cows to handle, this top-end crush should do the job. It won't be cheap though.

          Graham Lynch


          • #6
            Horses get laminitis too, and this can lead on to a bad situation called founder. Horses and ponies need to be rationed with their feed. We have one customer who is looking at using one of our Brix meters to calculate what sugar percentage is in the horse feed, be it hay or grass.

            Others have used the Batt-Latch timer(s) with some sort of a release apparatus to let horses into a small amount of new grazing regularly, or to drop a wedge of hay from above them when they are in a stall.
            Graham Lynch


            • #7
              Lame cows are not inevitable: as this article shows. They could have added in our timer to this system.

              Graham Lynch


              • #8
                The Lamecows website run by Neil Chesterton, Inglewood, still recommends our Batt-Latch timers as a way of taking pressure off the cows on the way to milking. But this is only part of the story.


                With feedpads, in-shed feeding and crop breakfeeding after milking being prevalent now, many dairy herds will completely come up to the dairy platform by themselves, once released. On average, 70% of lameness on farms is caused by pushing cows to milking, or race handling. The races can be tidied up, but at significant ongoing cost. Lame cows can be treated, but again at significant cost.

                One farmer recently handed in his timer for repair and said that since using our timer, they have no lame cows at all. This change must have been due to frequent timer use, since they'd changed nothing else. On other farms, they are dragging out older Batt-Latch timers from cupboards once an in-shed feeder or feedpad goes in, because they can see the cows moving freely to the dairy platform. I predict that several weeks or months later, they'll notice reduced lameness as well.

                Two day courses run by Neil Chesterton on lameness, are $950 per person. An option would be for the farm to purchase one or more Batt-Latch gate timers and try those too.
                Graham Lynch