A recent farm walk was held on the dairy farm of John and George Hanna, Downpatrick. They demonstrated how the grazing infrastructure can be developed to improve access to the grazing platform and facilitate better grassland management. The benefits of constructing additional farm roadways and installing new water troughs were outlined to those attending.
Roadways are best constructed in dry weather and need to be 4-6m wide, depending on cow numbers. A crossfall is necessary for drainage and channels or ramps should be used to divert water where there are steep hills. The lane should be free from sharp edges and foot problems are reduced by allowing cows to walk at their own speed to and from the paddocks. To improve cow flow, widen the roadway at corners and don’t have water access on the lane. Approaching the yard, widen the lane to prevent bottlenecks and install a kerb where the roadway meets the concrete yard to force cows to lift their feet to remove stones/grit.
Water for cows at grass is extremely important with a 100-cow herd drinking 6,500 litres per day. On hot days (temperatures above 20C) each cow can drink up to 140 litres per day. Troughs should be large enough so that 10% of the herd can drink at any one time with 30-50% water intake occurring within one hour of milking. Situating troughs in the centre of paddocks with fast flow valves and connecting pipes of 25mm have all been practiced on the farm. Regular cleaning of troughs is carried out as cows will not drink tainted or dirty water.
Investing in access to paddocks and having sufficient water supply to the grazing herd is paying dividends on the Hanna farm. For further information on grazing infrastructure, contact your local dairying advisor.
Martin Reel, Dairy Development Advisor, CAFRE