Cow Signals workshops

As part of an on-going commitment to providing training for young entrants to the industry, NWF Agriculture hosted a Cow Signals evening workshop in conjunction with Wadebridge YFC recently.

A group of 20 Young farmers were given a presentation on the Cow Signals concept ‘Look, Think, Act’. This concept encourages farmers to use observational skills to improve the health, production and welfare of their cows.

“They were a very switched-on set of young farmers that got really involved throughout the workshop. Everyone said they had learnt something to take home to their own farm,” said Andrew Mason, NWF sales specialist for Cornwall.

The evening covered a number of areas, including the six freedoms a cow should have; feed, water, light, air, rest and space.

• Feed space per cow (including the correct positioning of the neck rail and feed table) to ensure maximum intakes and prevent bullying of heifers and lower-ranking cows
• Water trough space and the correct water pressure for the troughs to refill quickly enough to satisfy cow drinking rates of up to 15 litres per min; 10% of the herd should be able to drink at the same time
• The number of hours of light (16-18 hours at 200 lux) and dark needed for lactating cows and vice versa for dry cows
• Design requirements to provide well-ventilated sheds that avoid ‘air seeking’ by cows
• Design requirements for comfortable beds of the right dimensions, ensuring a lunging space of 50-85cm is provided
• Assessing physical factors including body condition score and rumen fill and what the correct BCS is for various stages of lactation

“The young farmers were shown images of good and poor designs and what indicators to look out for which signal problems. For example, water troughs sited at ‘pinch points’ can cause bottlenecks in cow flow and consequent stress,” said Mr Mason.

“We also discussed the way housing design relates to performance; good cubicles encourage cows to lie down and cud. An extra hour spent lying down can equate to an extra litre of milk production; it is this attention to detail which pays production dividends.”

For more information on the Cow Signals concept, plus feed and technical advice, see

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