Pecking order in cows

17 October 2007 (200 words)

Understanding cow behaviour can help improve cow flow along laneways and into the dairy.
A cow is a herd animal. Each herd has its own social structure which is based on levels of dominance known as the pecking order.
Cows prefer to walk in a group and surprisingly the most dominant cows are found in the middle. It is important to keep the pecking order intact when moving cows as any changes can cause upset as they jostle to re-establish the order.

The pecking order can be mixed up by over crowding or by breaking up the herd flow into the dairy.
Make sure laneways are wide enough for cows to move easily, to keep their social order and to maintain visual contact with the leader. Allow the cows to walk at their own pace as rushing them will mix up the pecking order.

For smooth cow flow into the dairy, the holding yard should have one entrance at the rear so the herd enters in its pecking order. It should be large enough to avoid over-crowding which will mix up the pecking order.

Recommended sizes of laneways and yards are available in The CowTime Guidelines which can be downloaded for free from the CowTime website.


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