20 Jul Herd Observation
Observing your herd gives a good insight into their normal behaviour and needs. The way a cow walks; her rumen fill; if she’s standing alone – all are signals that could indicate a need to keep a closer eye on individuals or groups of animals.
Some Important tips for herd observation:
1 Don’t just look … observe.
2 Like cows, use all your senses when observing; ears and nose as well as eyes. What do I see, why has this happened, and what does it mean?
3 Observe from large to small, from many to few, from far to near – then do this in reverse. If cow signals are genuine, they will be repeated. Why is a cow doing this? Does it satisfy a need, is it a reaction to a stimulus, is it due to a physical urge?
4 Cows are herd animals, so tend to do things simultaneously, but they also form smaller groups within herds, generally based on social order. Cows use subtle signals to indicate their social ‘class’ or ranking (dominance or submissiveness). Conflicts often occur between cows of similar rankings.
5 Cows tend to moo when they are on heat or are hungry. Each cow has a personal space and this varies in size between breeds and their feelings of security and trust. Cows feel secure when they know they have plenty of feed, they have escape routes and they know the person handling them.
6 Cows feel insecure on slippery floors, when they are very lame and when in the presence of unpredictable personnel. The presence of cobwebs in the cowshed is indicative of low air movement, hence poor ventilation.
7 When cows lie down, up to 30% more blood circulates through the udder.
Although pasture is the most natural environment for cattle, it is still necessary to consider the cow’s comfort. Certain aspects are beyond the farmer’s control such as excess sun, wind and rain and dampness. their wellbeing.
The body language of the cow is the best management adviser – if you can read the cow, you know what to do. Cows will tell you what they want.
Sometimes to get the most out of your cows you gotta think like a cow! 😁