Call 519-777-0783

Chute vs. the Tilt

PassionWe have all heard the stand up chute vs. the tilt table argument. Those with stand up chutes have made claims, “the cows are calmer”, “it is not natural for a cow to be tilted”, “we can trim 150 in a day.” Well I’m here to tell you from having experience using most of the stand up chutes in the industry, that is simply false. If there was any kind of issue, tilts would not be around.

Cows lie down on their side the minute you allow them. We trim close up dry cows, we trim fresh cows, we trim first calf heifers. It is safe, it is efficient, and if you have ever had one or seen one used properly, there is no better and safer way to trim feet. If the cow happens to lie down in the chute, instead of dragging it out with a skidsteer etc. we simply push the button, raise the crate over top of the cow, and roll the crate forward, giving her full freedom and mobility to simply stand and walk ahead. The legs are not jerked back with powerful hydraulics and forced into a fixed position, or strained beyond the natural mobility of the individual cow. The “one size fits all” mentality of the design of the stand-up crates, offers much less in the way of safely trimming her. Sore feet, pulled stifles, tendons and ligaments have been found common with the use of stand-up style trimming. You absolutely can NOT trim 150 cows in a day properly. The busiest and most successful trimmers in the business trim patiently, quietly, and make regular visits to farms, instead of once or twice a year and “let’s run the whole herd through”.  It may get done in the convenience of a day or two, but the cost of sore cows, stress on the herd, and lost production, far outweigh the benefits. Many clients have changed that way of trimming, and enjoy a much easier and quieter trimming experience.

This is not to say stand-up chutes cannot be used. Many successful trimmers have a client list full of satisfied customers, and that should be anyone’s goal. I am pointing out the common myths set forth in the business today. Many veterinarians we have spoken with, have expressed that they would prefer the use of tilt tables due to their ease on the cow. Your hoof program should improve the health your cows and specifically improve hoof health without causing unnecessary strain.

The standard for trimming today, has not caught up with many other modern dairy practices such as feed and other care. A combination of a great feed program, great trimming schedule, and quality veterinarian services, is key. Trimming does have a cost, as does anything else on a farm. Many farms attempt to do “in house trimming”  to save a little. But if you look at the schedule of a dairy farmer, the many things that need to be managed from fieldwork to breeding, 9 times out of 10, it is not possible to do and effective job, and the work does not get done as often as it should. Ask yourself, “how much do the cows produce financially in a year?” The average cost of trimming varies around 15 dollars per trim. A proper schedule allows the cows to be trimmed around the 150-180 days in milk, and just after dry off, to allow any issues to be addressed long before calving. We all know how important dry off programs need to be, in order to reintroduce her to the milking process. Trimming absolutely plays a big role, as well as mid lactation cows. If you think a proper job is once around dry off and that’s all you need, that is simply not enough. That 30 dollars you spend a year on an individual cow, would it not make sense that, due to her being more comfortable, she will make up that in liters that you are paid for? A sore cow can average 300-400 dollars lost. The very first thing a cow does every morning, and every night, is STAND and WALK, to the feed bunk, to the parlor, to the breeding area, etc. The emphasis on lameness and hoof care is ever becoming a large topic with veterinarians and magazine articles, all over North America. Every magazine seems to have an article. All this information is almost overwhelming to the point it’s ignored. Simply put, no matter scientific explanation, or the “consultants” who recommend how cows should be trimmed, but don’t actually make a living trimming feet, this is the process that is proven, successful, and recommended:

–  Trim each cow twice a year. Rubber floors may require 3 times a year per cow, consult with your trimmer.

– Regular foot bathing schedule must be given in order to manage digital dermatitis

–  Attempting to save a nickel to spend a dollar in foot care is inefficient any way you look at it.

– A trimmer using a certain “method” or any attempt to manipulate that natural balance of a cows hoof, is not doing a proper job. A lot of things have changed about dairy farming, but a cow is still a cow. The weight balance of the claws and how we trim should not have any other “method” than what the cow has to work with.

– The chute makes a whole lot less difference than the person doing the job. Check out the Hoards Dairymen article linked to this website comparing the types of chutes used and the stress levels measured during the trimming process

– Work with your trimmer if any issues arise. We all know things in the dairy business come in phases. Sometimes the feed isn’t just right, sometimes sore cows pop up, sometimes breeding is difficult. Patience and consistency tend to pay off.

– It’s a business from both ends. You expect quality, and the trimmer makes a living as a professional. The goal of any trimmer should be to make your cows as comfortable as possible as far as feet go. The payoff will be far greater than the attempt to do the “whole herd in a day” mentality, or “in house” trimming that time very rarely allows for. That costs more then it makes.

– Calmness and patience are absolutely a must when working with cattle.