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[Video] Comfortable cows the secret to success at Isla Bank dairy farm

Isla Bank, Southland

Paul Hardegger has been dairy farming in Central Southland for 14 years. Since the installation of Numat on his underpass and holding yards in 2013, he has seen first-hand how rubber matting improves cow wellbeing, track maintenance, and farm productivity.

In 2013, Paul expanded the farm, purchasing an adjacent block of land. It was a good move which enabled him to grow his operation, but it also required the installation of an underpass to connect the new block to the existing property.

While the underpass did the trick for getting stock from one side of the farm to the other, it came with its own set of problems. The Knaprock surface, while initially good, needed constant maintenance and in the wetter seasons, it became mushy and hard to manage. Furthermore, the cows were uncomfortable on it and this caused them to slow down and lift their tails for a crap.

“When it got slushy, the cows didn’t want to walk on it, and it was slow. Then it got sharp and the cows would get lame,” says Paul.

“Money for jam that’s the best investment I’ve done, and I’ve put a lot of things in a lot of farms and that’s the first thing I would say, is put the rubber matting in, it’s time-saving. Spend your money on that and you’ll get it back hand over fist.”

Paul had considered replacing the Knaprock with concrete, but this would have meant needing to install a pump to take the waste back to his effluent pond, nearly 900 metres away. For Paul, that wasn’t an option.

The solution to this problem came when Paul spied Numat’s ZigZag Roll product in a mail catalogue. When he saw that ZigZag Roll could be installed on flat track surfaces without the need for a concrete base, he thought he’d give it a go.

After speaking with Numat Agri Consultant, Myles Stewart, Paul ordered enough ZigZag Roll to cover 80 metres of track either side of his underpass – 160 metres all up.

Paul noticed a difference in his cow’s behaviour straight away – they were more comfortable on the rubber and less likely to stop or crap on the mats. This meant the surface was cleaner and easier to manage. 

At the time of installation, Paul had purchased a six-thousand-dollar sweeper to keep the underpass clear, but since putting in the mats, he hasn’t once had to use it. “The sweeper is still sitting in the shed. When the mats get messy, we have some rain, then the wind blows through and it’s clean as new. You could go through it in your socks on a nice day,” says Paul.

One of the major unforeseen benefits of installing the mats was the reduction in lameness experienced by Paul and his workers. “We used to have three of four lame cows a week – every night, lame cows. And that’s dropped off 90-95% and I can only put it down to the rubber matting. It’s been the best money we’ve ever spent,” says Paul.

Paul was so impressed that he decided to install matting on his holding yards – a decision that has paid off in spades with a big improvement in cow flow at milking time. “It’s just the comfort for the cows, you could keep them on it for days. It’s so good on their feet,” says Paul.

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