Source: Dairyland Initiative University of Wisconsin-Madison
Feedbunks may be most commonly designed either with headlocks (head gates, stanchions etc.), or with a single post and rail system.
The choice between a post and rail feed barrier and headlocks in lactating cow pens is not clear with strong proponents for each. While post and rail bunks allow greater freedom of movement, research shows that there is more wasted feed and more aggressive displacements between dominant over subordinate cows at the bunk with post and rail barriers than with headlocks. Headlocks also have the advantage of facilitating animal handling in critical pens such as the pre- and post-fresh pens and sick cow pen.
However, headlocks should not be introduced for the first time to naïve animals during the transition period as this may significantly impact dry matter intake at this crucial stage. It is preferred that heifers be exposed to headlocks during the rearing period if they are to be housed in pens with headlocks during transition and lactation. Some producers focus on minimizing handling in the pen, preferring a sort gate and work area over the use of headlocks in pens.
In some pens, such as the prefresh pen, where heifers are learning to compete for bunk space with mature cows, it may be wise to include a section of a post and rail feed barrier to provide animals with a choice of eating area.
Headlocks and post and rail barrier provided in a close-up group where heifers are exposed to both types of barriers prior to calving
The manger surface should be 36 inches (91 cm) wide and smooth to encourage feeding activity. Ceramic tile or high-strength concrete performs well with silages which tend to etch concrete over time.
The feed delivery alley should be 18 to 20 feet (5.5 to 6.1 m) from feed curb to feed curb in order to accommodate feed delivery without driving on feed or causing injury to cows.
Feed Bunk Check List
- A post and rail system allows for greater freedom of movement at the feedbunk, but there is more wasted feed and more displacements from the bunk by dominant over subordinate cows
- Headlocks reduce waste and competition between neighbors, but cows have to be trained to use them
Headlocks can be mounted on an 18- to 20-inch (46 to 51 cm) high feed curb for Holsteins (15 to 16 inches (38 to 41 cm) for Jerseys), so the height of the upper edge of the lower headlock rail is 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm) above the cow-side feed alley for Holsteins and 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) for Jerseys. Angle the headlock toward the feed to increase the cow’s reach.
Headlocks are generally available in 24-inch (61 cm) and 30-inch (76 cm) wide options. The latter is recommended for close-up and postfresh cows. At peak bunk utilization in pens with 24-inch (61 cm) wide headlocks, it is typical for only 80% to be filled. When planning facilities, it is important to realize that one headlock does not necessarily equal one feed space.
Headlock Check List
- Mount headlocks on an 18 to 20 inch (46 to 51 cm) high feed curb above the cow-side feed alley
- Height above the cow-side feed alley for the upper edge of the lower rail of the headlock is 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm) for Holsteins and 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) for Jerseys
- Prefer 30 inch (76 cm) wide headlocks for pre- and post-fresh cows
- Check the width of the pivot point of the headlock and avoid locks that are too narrow for large Holstein cows
This pen shows a typical pattern with 24-inch (61 cm) wide headlocks where only 80% are filled at peak bunk utilization. While a feed space potentially exists in the picture, the cow cannot locate it.
Choose a headlock design with a down-cow self-release mechanism. If you have large Holsteins, look for a headlock with a larger or adjustable width to provide a neck pivot point of 7.5 to 8.5 inches (19 to 22 cm) between the pipes when closed.
Post and Rail Feed Barrier
For post and rail barriers, the feed curb should be 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm) high on the cow-side of the bunk for Holstein cows and 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) for Jersey cows with the feed manger side elevated 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) above the cow alley. The curb should be 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) wide.
Post and Rail Check List
- Feed curb should be 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm) high on the cow-side of the bunk for Holstein cows and 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) for Jersey cows
- Feed manger side should be elevated 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) above the cow alley
- The curb should be 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) wide
- Feed rails 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter should be mounted 48 to 50 inches (1.2 to 1.3 m) above the cow-side feed alley
- Rear edge of the feed rail should be 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) forward of the cow-side of the curb
Feed rails 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter should be mounted 48 to 50 inches (1.2 to 1.3 m) above the cow-side feed alley with the rear edge of the bar 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) forward of the cow-side of the curb. The rail needs to be supported every 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m) with a vertical post.
Post and Rail Feeding Fence Standard Specifications