Decision making

How to construct an ideal zero grazing unit

Zero grazing is a form of centralising all your cow husbandry activities such as feeding, watering, milking and health management.

Proper planing is therefore, necessary before starting a zero grazing system.

Generally, the benefits of this system includes cows being confined, therefore using the most energy from feeds for growth and milk production, enabling clean milk production, encouraging good calf rearing, proper manure collection, animals are protected against diseases and predators and it allows for closer observations of the animals.

The difficult part is that much more labour and capital for construction is required and the animals can be easily stressed due to their close confinement.

Picture /courtesy

The standard zero grazing unit system has various essential areas. Each cow has a resting place known as the cubicle, which should be high enough and spacious. It should not be too small or too big to allow the cow to turn around inside. An ideal cubicle should have a length of 7ft and a width of 4ft that is separated from each other by two timbers.

The floor should be raised and filled with murram, or you could provide a cow mattress if you can afford it, but not made of concrete

Walking area is about 3 metres wide between the resting place and where the feed and water troughs are located. This area is known as the dunging and sunning area. There should be no roofing here but the floor should be made of concrete for easy collection of urine and manure. The surface of the floor should be rough so that animals cannot slip, and it should slope from the milking place towards urine and dung collection pit.

Along one end of the walking area are the feed troughs with water trough in the middle. The inside measurements of the feed trough should be 2ft wide at the bottom and be raised at least 1/2ft above the ground level of the walking area. Shallow feed troughs allows for feed spillage hence wastage.

Next to the cubicle is the milking parlour. The floor should be made of concrete sloping towards the walking area. A feed trough should be fitted at the of the milking parlour for feeding the cows during milking. A head yoke should be constructed to restrain the animal during milking.

The calf pen is normally constructed opposite the milking place with 4 by 5 ft floor.

All the measurements here are subject to change depending on the size of breed you intend to keep. The above measurements is construction of zero grazing unit for 6 cows.

We recommend construction to be supervised by a livestock extension officer because mistake made can be very costly.

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