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A good zero grazing unit design should take into consideration the following:

1. Site location

The site where the zero-grazing unit is built determines the efficiency of operations throughout the dairy cattle enterprise.  Zero-grazing dairy system requires an increased level of labour input, due to the need to cut fodder daily.  The unit should be as near as possible to the source of forage to reduce labour costs of carrying the cut fodder to the cows and carrying manure back to the farm. Proximity to the homestead in relation to the biogas plant is also an important consideration.

2. Safety 

A good dairy animal is a costly investment that must be accorded security. This can be ensured by the kind of design you adopt for the unit and its location. Many cases of malicious poisoning of high producing dairy cows and vandalism by jealous neighbours or even farm workers are common. Locating the unit close to farm houses will add to security, but this should be such that the wind should blow away the dung smell.

3. Good manure handling design

Manure is a daily by-product from dairy production and measures must be incorporated in the unit design to ensure that it is properly disposed off without being an odour nuisance to the farm and neighbourhood.

4. Ventilation

Good ventilation is good for a healthy respiratory system and adds to the comfort, which we have noted is crucial for maximal milk production. The level of ventilation depends on the climatic conditions of a given area. Where the climate is hot, a zero-grazing unit should be scantily enclosed to maximise air circulation and reduce heat stress. The direction of the wind is important in ensuring good ventilation while at the same time protecting the animal from adverse climatic conditions.

5. Protection

Protection from adverse weather conditions like rain, strong wind and hot sunshine. Where winds are strong consider utilising wind breakers like trees and buildings.

6. Isolation 

Isolation is a key function of a zero-grazing unit. Different animals need to be isolated from each other to avoid injuries resulting from fights and mounting to control breeding and avoid spread of diseases.

7. Bio-security for dairy facilities

Bio-security management practices prevent the spread of disease by minimizing the movement of biologic organisms and their vectors (viruses, bacteria, rodents, flies, etc.) onto and within your operation through animals, vehicles, visitors, personnel, pests, and other means. A vehicle wheel bath or a footbath is a very simple bio-security measure that helps prevent the potential spread of disease.  Depending on the amount of traffic on your farm, it may be necessary to have more than one footbath. There are several recommended disinfectants for use in footbaths. Make sure to maintain a “clean” footbath. On average, footbaths require weekly cleaning. Post guidelines near footbaths instructing users how to correctly wash footwear.

8. Comfort 

Cow comfort is the term used to describe the overall comfort level of a dairy cow in its environment on the farm. It is an important part of maintaining a healthy herd. The first aspect of cow comfort are the facilities in which they live. Cows are housed in well ventilated and clean cubicles. For exercise, the cows are provided plenty of space to walk around whenever they choose. To rest, the cows have large free stalls, bedded with clean materials such as: sand, sawdust or rubber mats. The bedding materials form to the cows’ udders to keep them comfortable when lying down. Cow comfort is very important to milk quality, and a priority for dairy farmers and veterinarians.

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