Impression of a day training CowSignals

Impression of a day training CowSignals

An impression of already the 10th (!) CowSignals training at the impressive Sino Dutch Dairy Development Centre (SDDDC) in Beijing.

SDDDC was launched in Novermber 2013 by China Agricultural University,Wageningen University and Research Centre and FrieslandCampina. The objective of the Centre is to improve dairy production, safety and quality levels throughout the entire dairy chain in China.


Not in the photos: during the morning, the group enthusiastically enjoyed a classroom presentation, in which the CowSignals concept was explained. Part of the concept is the CowSignals Diamond: the 7 needs of cows for being happy, healthy & productive.


Inventory of data and results of this dairy farm, plus the prides and ambitions. After this, the group starts with checklist no.1: Herd and group observations. Each person does this for him- or herself. In full silence...

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When filling in checklist 1, one of the questions is to give an impression of the resting behavior of the group(s). During checklist 2, the participants evaluate the comfort, dimensions and management of the resting places, in this case free-stalls. One of the checkpoint is the softness of the bedding. This is checked with the “Knee test”: drop yourself on your knees 3x in one of the free-stalls.
Here the beds are moderately soft and dry. The “back-of-hand-rub” was very rough, telling us that the beds are very abrasive to the cow’s hocks.

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With checklist 3, the participants zoom in on an individual cow. One of the things the participants practice is how to recognize and evaluate hoof signals. Here our trainer Jan Hulsen shows how to check for digital dermatitis lesions on a standing cow. This cow had a minor lesion.

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What is your evaluation of this cow's lying behavior? The bed is quite soft, dry and well bedded. The cow lies very diagonally, just like the other cows in this photo. The most likely reason in this case, is a neck rail that is too far backwards and a free-stall that is too short. Because of the neck rail, the cow has to stand diagonally when she starts to ly down. And when she gets up, she also wants to end standing diagonally. Because of the short free-stall, the cow can not swing out her head forward when another cow is lying in the opposite free-stall. So the cow swings her head to the side, which means that her back side will move to the other side and she ends up lying diagonally.
We gave the farm the tip to replace the straight neck rails with curved neck rails, and position these a bit more forwards. And we advised to make deep litter beds, which provides more grip to the cow’s legs so she is better capable to ly down her body wherever she wants to have it.

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A CowSignals workshop ends with a inventory of tops, critical cowsignals and tips. There was a long list of tops on this farm, as on very very many farms. And also here, there are things that can be improved.
Our trainer Jan Hulsen challenges and helps the participants, to combine and evaluate the cowsignals into specific and practical tips. The challenge is to come up with tips that the farmer can and will implement.

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For those people who know Jan Hulsen: his knowledge of the beautiful Chinese language is indeed limited, but he manages…

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