The milking production season has ended on many spring-calving dairy farms for 2021, and now is a good opportunity for those farms to begin parlour training. As farmers and cows take a well deserved break ahead of 2022, the introduction of the in-calf heifers to the milking parlour can be completed.

Parlour training

Parlour training should save a lot of headaches during the calving season, as the milking parlour will not be a completely new experience to the heifers. It can take a considerable amount of time, effort and money to get these heifers to the point of going through the parlour so, their introduction should be planned. Some top tips for training heifers to the parlour:
  • Ensure all handling of heifers is positive, as poor handling of heifers increases fear of operators;
  • If feeding concentrates in the parlour, bring the heifers into the dairy and feed them before calving as this will create a positive association to the dairy;
  • Teat spray heifers in the month prior to calving to get them used to the action and sensation and to help reduce mastitis;
  • Training gates can be used to restrict heifer movement so it is easier to get them on to the rotary platform for the first time;
  • Consider putting a few older cows in with untrained heifers to ‘show them the way’.
Calving is a stressful experience for a heifer, so introducing them to an environment they have not experienced before will only increase the stress on the animal. Start by putting the heifers in the collecting yard with the front and back gate of the parlour open, allowing the heifers to walk freely though the parlour.

One the heifers are comfortable with this, you can then close the front gate and offer the heifers some meal to encourage them to line up correctly.

Forcing heifers into the parlour should be avoided. The use of an older cow can help to 'show them the way' if needed. You want to create a positive experience for these heifers, which will benefit you once they have calved.