Having good cow flow on dairy farms is vital to ensure that lameness issues are avoided and cows move more efficiently.

As we enter into the tail end of the year it is a good opportunity to look at areas of improvement for the next lactation.

One area that could potentially be looked at is cow flow, as good cow flow allows for day-to-day management of the herd to go smoothly.

There are two main areas that farmers should focus on when looking to improve cow flow on farms: The milking parlour and farm roadways.

Cow flow

To assist with cow flow, there should be no steps or sharp inclines at the parlour’s exit or entrance.

Light is also very important in a milking parlour; there should be as much natural light in the parlour as possible.

This is also important at the exit of the parlour, as it will help cows to exit quicker.

There should be plenty of space at the front of the parlour too, so that cows are not forced to take a sharp turn. This will also help with lameness issues in cows.

Backing gates work well, but should not be used to force cows forward; they should be used to close the space. However, it is important to leave enough space for cows to continue to move within the yard.

Having space for cows is vital as they need sufficient space to move around in order to maintain social order.


Roadway surfaces and width have a significant impact on cow flow on dairy farms too.

Issues with cow flow can be caused by a number of factors such as problems with roadway design, roadway surfaces and sharp turns.

A poor road surface will cause cows to walk slow and often in single file to avoid rough or uneven parts.

For a 150-cow herd of fewer a width of 4.5m is adequate, with an additional 0.5m for every extra 100 cows advised.

This width is needed in highly trafficked areas; areas that aren’t used as frequently don’t need to be as wide.


Having good cow flow should result in fewer lameness cases, as often improvements made to cow flow should reduce lameness.

But likely the biggest factor to improve lameness issues and flow of cows is going to be the person herding the cows.

Cows should be allowed to wander to the parlour at their own pace. They walk with their heads down to spot obstacles – such as stones or uneven surfaces.

However, if they are pushed too hard, they will walk with their heads in the air and this can results in lameness issues.

Small improvements to farms could make significant impacts to cow health and the amount of time spend herding.