What is the benefit of a drafting system?

Over the last few years, many farmers across the country have availed of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS).

TAMS II aims to provide farmers with grant aid to improve and/or build a specific range of farm buildings or purchase equipment that may benefit their farm businesses.

Many dairy farms have installed drafting units on their farms with the aid of the grant.

The technology built into the parlour – and the ID collars on the cows – can relay information to the drafting gate. For example, if a cow is in heat, the cow will exit the parlour and walk down the chute, where the drafting gate will divert the cow into a designated pen.

However, in order to make use of this drafting system, an area for cows to be drafted needs to be installed. A typical drafting area will include a platform; crush; exit race; and drafting pen.

Some extra features of a drafting area include a footbath and a head-locking gate.

There is also no such thing as a standard parlour exit race as every yard is different.

Key elements – such as the direction you want the cows to exit the parlour – on the farm must all be considered when designing a parlour exit and drafting system.

These factors all have an effect on cow flow, which is critical to get right – especially on dairy farms.

Image source: O’Donovan Engineering

One farmer AgriLand visited noted: “I am glad I decided to install a drafting system. The big advantage of it is that I don’t have to leave the pit as much now that the drafting gate will divert the cow away from the rest of the herd.

“It saves a lot of time when it comes to looking for cows that are in heat because the system is set up to detect these cows and it will automatically divert them away from the rest of the herd into the drafting pen.

“It’s the same story if I notice a lame cow in the pit. With the press of a button the drafting gate will divert that cow into the drafting pen,” he concluded.

A 360º gate can be installed to make handling and loading cattle easy and safe.

Image source: O’Donovan Engineering

A head-locking gate is very handy for quick handling of cattle. A self-locking swing-over stall can be set to lock animals individually at the rail. It has an adjustable neck width, so it is suitable for all animals. This can make testing, vaccinating and clipping an easy task for the farmer.

Teagasc guidelines for a drafting system include: 

  • Cows should be drafted without the farmer having to leave the pit;
  • Farmers with good drafting facilities are inclined to AI for longer;
  • Drafting systems can be manual (rope and pulley) or automatic;
  • Front-exit parlours can make manual drafting easier;
  • Side-exit parlours can also be drafted manually with a gate at the exit;
  • Holding pens for drafted animals should be large enough to hold 10% of the herd;
  • Exit gates from the parlour that can be operated from anywhere in the pit are essential.

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