By Lilian Schaer for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
A better stall design is helping an Eastern Ontario dairy farm improve animal welfare. That’s part of their long-term goal of increasing cow longevity in their herd.
With support from the Implementation Funding Assistance Program under Growing Forward 2 (GF2), the Nussbaumer family of Salzburg Farms near Alexandria retrofitted their 18-year-old barn earlier this year with flexible stall dividers and neck rails.
The dividers flex left or right when cows get up or lie down in the stalls, reducing the potential for bruising and injury.
The neck rails can lift up when cows are in the stalls, giving them greater access to feed and reducing “perching”– cows standing with their rear legs in the alley way instead of being entirely inside the stall area.
“We’re seeing less perching and fewer lesions from stall injuries, as well as less hesitancy on the part of the cows to enter the stalls,” explains Tony Nussbaumer, a graduate of the University of Guelph’s Kemptville campus.
He farms with his wife Angie and his parents, Sebastian and Christine; the family milks 80 cows, cash crops 700 acres and has 250 acres in hay. Younger brother Thomas is still in high school, but is also actively involved in the farm.
The GF2 funding was a welcome boost for the Nussbaumers, who had previously completed projects through the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), such as improving fuel storage and installing creek fencing.
It was at a local Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) workshop last winter that Tony learned of new funding opportunities now available to farmers.
“If I hadn’t attended the workshop, I wouldn’t have known that a project like this focused on animal welfare could qualify for funding,” he says. “The funding we were able to access helped us get this project done so we can now move onto other cow comfort projects.”
They’re also looking at applying for future GF2 cost-share to help with succession planning for the farm business.
The Nussbaumers’ barn retrofit project started in 2013 when they changed one row of conventional stalls in their barn over to the flexible dividers to see how the technology would work in their herd.
The test was a success, so they converted the rest of the barn last winter.
“Our barn was built in 1996 as a freestall barn, and there have been a lot of improvements in cow comfort since then, so it was time for an update,” Nussbaumer says, adding that increased comfort improves cows’ productivity. “The improvement in stall design is working towards our overall goal of increasing cow longevity.”
GF2 is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness, market development, adaptability, and industry capacity in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector.
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) delivers educational workshops and funding assistance supported by GF2 to farmers. More information about GF2 funding opportunities for farmers is available at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/growing_forward_2.htm or by contacting the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s Regional Program Leads at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/workshop_leaders.htm.
For more information, please contact:
John Laidlaw, Program Manager