Cows should not be brought in too early and should ideally be collected in small groups so that the cows towards the end of a group don’t have to stand too long with extra pressure on their hooves.


If you watch carefully at the parlour waiting area, you will see that subtle changes in position take place as the cows readjust themselves to enter the parlour in a slightly different order. A cow that walked relatively near the back of the group may enter the parlour in the middle or even at the front and needs enough space and time to get through. Adjustments continue as she enters the parlour and other cows replace her. The other cows will not go into the parlour until she has entered and if herded up too tightly, not allowing this cow through, the herd will be forced into the parlour in the wrong order by the milker coming out of the parlour to chase them or by use of a crowding gate. When chased, they are likely to turn quickly away from the stimulus, spinning on their feet and risking damage to the lateral claw on their rear feet in particular. Given time, cows learn to readjust to their milking order and flow in to the parlour naturally, and respond well to a calm, friendly voice, thereby preventing unnecessary damage to their hooves.

The floors of the waiting area and parlour should be hygienic, comfortable to walk and stand on, and have an even, slip-resistant surface without being too abrasive. If concrete is used, a brushed pattern often gives enough grip to make it non-slip. ICS also now common to put a rubber floor covering here to provide some cushioning helping them to walk much more comfortably and safely, as the cows will be standing for some time.

When cows are pushed too much with a crowd gate, squeezed, their heads come up and they are unable to balance or see where to place their feet and on top of this the surface is abrasive on the hooves. This not only causes severe hoof health problems, but stresses the animals and makes them harder to handle in the parlour as they are not relaxed. A crowd gate should be used as a gentle warning to the cows to move forward, and never to push or squeeze them up towards the parlour. A short alarm of a few seconds to warn that the gate will move followed by small incremental movements one at a time) is enough to encourage the animals to move.

No need to rush

Sick animals should never be rushed. They are often the last group to be milked when a farmer wants to finish and go home, meaning they may not be given the time they need to walk. Those that are lame especially need extra time and care, as they are in a lot of pain, and should be handled gently. If an animal is in pain you should consider that her comfort zone is probably different to that of a healthy cow; she will experience a higher level of stress if she finds it difficult to avoid the stimulus. For this reason, consider giving lame cows more personal space than normal.