How Dutch innovation is beating heifer ‘bullying’ at a UK college

A Dutch innovation is working a treat in solving an age-old problem on the new dairy unit at Myerscough College, Lancashire.

Older milkers can no longer ‘bully’ heifers away from troughs and deprive them of their allotted rations as walk-through feed stations, which have been designed in the Netherlands, have been installed specifically to target the issue.

These have a backing gate protecting the animal (when eating) from more dominant members of the herd.

James Oddie, college director of farming innovations and operations, says the walk-through feed stations mean animals are not at risk of injury trying to back out once they finish eating.

At the 270-cow dairy unit at Myerscough College, two walk-through feed stations have been installed between the water troughs and each row of cubicles.

Group feeding

The college also uses the gates to sort cows into different feed groups.

Oddie said: “Productivity is improved as feed is only consumed by the correct cow, especially as the ID system works very well.

“That’s important as we are currently using three feed options. This is a very well designed feeding system built to the high quality you would expect from a Dutch manufacturer.

Udder, feet and leg injuries are much less likely. Cows like this quiet, welfare-friendly system that gives them peace to eat. They can then exit forwards out of the feed station.

“Cows are herd animals and the open tubular design of the Hanskamp FeedStation allows them to see the rest of their herd as they feed. The flow of cows through the feeding stations is also maximised by the walk-through design that keeps cows calm and content.

Cow-friendly

“It’s certainly cow-friendly as, within days, all our milkers were walking in to get fed. The design, including the lack of noise, makes this Hanskamp FeedStation walk-through a real step forward in herd management.”

The recently opened £7.5 million Food and Farming Innovation and Technology Centre, on the 900ac Myerscough College farm near Preston exists to encourage the adoption of precision farming techniques.

Oddie emphasised that the college farm is a commercial unit facing the same challenges as other farm businesses.

“We have to generate our own income and give students real farming experience with the emphasis on innovation for increased profitability,” he said.

Alongside dairy cows, Myerscough College also has more than 600 beef cattle, including a suckler enterprise and a small pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd. The farm also runs more than 1,500 sheep.

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