Sept. 1 2016 07:19 AM

We can help reduce animal stress when milking by maintaining a calm environment.

Amidst the humming of fans and the constant rhythm of the milking machines, I tend to do some of my best thinking while working in the parlor. It's calm, it's peaceful, and it has always been a soothing environment for me.

Just like the cow, I prefer minimal noise when I am working. Too much commotion can cause unwanted excitement and trigger stress in the parlor. Therefore, I like to keep it as quiet as possible during milking time. I will admit to sometimes listening to the radio to catch up on the latest sports or playing quiet background music every now and then. Most of the time, however, silence is golden in my book.

Shouting, whistling, and banging on objects is no way to move animals in and out of the parlor. A cow that is under stress can slow down the production of the entire herd. Stressed animals release alarms in their feces, alerting other cows about their discomfort. Not only do stressed animals tend to defecate more, but the release of oxytocin can be jeopardized if an animal is stressed. This can prohibit the letdown of milk, affecting overall milk production.

There are some steps that can be taken to help prevent animal stress due to noise in the parlor.
  1. No shouting should occur when moving animals. Lower your voice to help keep cows calm.

  2. Intentionally banging on objects should be off limits. Not only can this cause stress, but it can damage equipment as well.

  3. Loud whistling or clapping can sometimes cause unwanted excitement in animals. Try to reduce any extra noise that may occur.

  4. If the radio is on, set a maximum level that employees should not exceed. If the music is too loud, workers may not be aware of a problem that is occurring. Music can help pass the time, but it should not rise above a certain volume.
Just like the cows, I enjoy a calm, quiet working environment. These steps, along with other preventative measures, can lower anxiety within the herd and provide a better work setting for employees. What actions will your farm take to reduce noise in the parlor?
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Taylor Leach grew up on her family's dairy farm in Linwood, Kansas. Leach graduated with an associate's degree from Kansas City Kansas Community College and now attends Oklahoma State University, majoring in animal science and agriculture communications. On campus, she is a member of the dairy club and also works on the university's dairy farm. Leach was the 2016 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.