A survey was conducted to identify: 1) the number of dairy farms that train their heifers to the milking parlour prior to calving, 2) the reasons why farmers chose to train or not and 3) what training methods farmers use. The questionnaire was sent to 250 randomly selected dairy farmers within New Zealand. Of the 93 respondents, 52% trained their heifers to the milking parlour prior to calving and 48% did not. Of those that trained, 79% trained to reduce stress levels, 13% to increase milk production and 19% to reduce risk of injury to animal/farmer. Conversely, of the farmers that did not train their heifers to the milking parlour prior to calving, 56% reported that “cows teach the heifers”, 24% reported that they were too busy and 31% indicated that training did not work. The main methods of training included walking heifers through the milking parlour, holding heifers in the parlour and exposing them to people. The results from this survey provide interesting information regarding the motivation of farmers to train (or not train) heifers to the milking parlour prior to calving and what training methods are used. Information gained from this survey can inform the direction of future research so that science-based farmer friendly recommendations for heifer training can be developed.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 78, Lincoln, 177-182, 2018
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