SUREFOOT™ slats prove their worth on West Yorkshire dairy farm

SUREFOOT™ slats prove their worth on West Yorkshire dairy farm

The Throup family has been milking cows at Skipton in West Yorkshire for the past 50 years. The farm is home to beef and sheep enterprises, but the business today is centred on a herd of 240 robotically milked Holstein/Friesian cows.

“The four robots came on stream at the beginning of April 2023,” Ian Throup explained. “There are 200 cows in the milking group at any one time. The current performance is averaging 33L per cow per day, compared to earlier in the year where the figure was up at 37L. The drop in output reflects the very difficult grass silage season that has confronted most livestock farmers in 2023.”

The installation of the robots represents the culmination of a farm investment programme that started back in 2019 with the development of a new, purpose-built dairy complex.

Ian explained, “Up to that point, the cows had been housed in 2 sheds: one was slatted, the other had a solid floor. Both buildings had reached the end of their working lives. One of the main factors we had to think about was the flooring of the new building. Slips and falls was an issue with the old sheds so it was essential that we took steps to remedy that.

“After careful consideration the decision was made to go for Moore Concrete’s SUREFOOT™ Slip-Resistant slats.

This unique flooring system is manufactured by Moore Concrete, based in Northern Ireland.

“It was one of the best decisions that I have ever made,” Ian continued. “The cows now have a much better footing and, consequently, their confidence and movement has improved. Whilst the number of slips and falls incurred by the animals has come back to an almost zero level; we are also seeing stronger heats exhibited by the cows with the all-round herd performance improving significantly.”

He concluded: “These are trends that have been consistent over a four-year period since the SUREFOOT™ slats where installed.”

Moore Concrete is witnessing a steady increase in demand for its SUREFOOT™ slats. These slats where independently tested with a veterinarian in England in order to determine the extent of potential welfare advantages. The results indicate that SUREFOOT™ Slats provide a significantly improved surface for livestock when compared to traditional brushed slats, leading to cattle exhibiting much more natural behaviour on SUREFOOT™ slats.

The SUREFOOT™ slats were designed with animal welfare in mind, Moore Concrete’s David Henderson explained: “According to independent studies, the slats provide 50% more grip, when compared to standard brushed surfaces. Research has proven the use of SUREFOOT™ slats leads to a significant reduction in slip related injuries. In addition to this, the SUREFOOT™ finish improves bulling behaviour, leading to better observed heats and improved timing of AI.”

The benefits of SUREFOOT™ extend beyond animal welfare though. The company recently completed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Queens University Belfast and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute which focused on ammonia reduction along with any factors that could help farms lower their carbon footprint, given the growing pressures we are seeing across the industry.

The work undertaken specifically surveyed the impact of Moore Concrete’s SUREFOOT™ slat range relative to Key Performance Indicators from the UK National Dairy Herd – August 2021, this report was collated using NMR data from 500 dairy farms across the UK.  The figures were standardised, to relate to a herd of 100 cows, the average NI herd size.

David continued, “The survey identified that the median age at exit by lactation length was 3.7 for cows housed on SUREFOOT™ Slats, compared to the National Herd inventory at 3.5.  The additional 0.2 equates to 61 days extra over the cow’s lactating lifetime (based on the optimum 305 day lactation) before exit the herd.

Reducing Cull rate is an effective way of reducing on farm carbon emissions.  When comparing cow performance of those housed on SUREFOOT™ to that of the National Herd average it was observed that 12 less followers were required (6 x 0-1 year olds and 6 x 1-2 year old) each year into a simulated 100 cow herd. Resulting in an overall reduction of 485 kg methane (CH4) per year, in context a lactating cow produces 57kg per year.

He closed, by saying “A lot of time and effort has gone into the design and manufacture of our SUREFOOT™ finish, what we have now is a product that is not only better for the animals, but also better for the farmer and the environment.”

April 2024


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