Graduate hits on winning idea with hydraulic crate for paring hooves

Maeve O'Keeffe of Ballynoe Agri Services in east Cork, with the 'Inspect 4' crate. Picture: Paul James

Farmer interest is growing in an award-winning hydraulic hoof paring crate developed by Ballynoe Agri Services in east Cork.

The machine’s inventor, Waterford IT agri science graduate Maeve O’Keeffe, says farmers can’t believe how calm the animals are when loaded onto the ‘Inspect 4’ crate, which then turns onto its side to ease the job of paring the hooves.

In response to demand from farmers, Maeve and her father Eddie plan to host a series of demonstrations early in the new year. The novel crate won the prestigious innovation award at the Tullamore Show, just missed out on the first prize in the NPA/Toplink Innovation Award, at the National Ploughing Championships and picked up silver at the National Dairy Show in Millstreet.

“When farmers see the live demo for the first time, they are surprised by how stress-free it is for the animal,” said Ms O’Keeffe. “We have had great feedback from one professional hoof-trimmer in Kilkenny who bought a unit. He says the farmers he works with are really impressed.

“People are finding it much easier than the upright crate, because it is taking a lot of the physical work out of hoof-paring. But we’ll have to do a lot of demos to show how it works. Farmers like to think long and hard before parting with money.”

The big advantage for the person doing the hoof trimming is that the hydraulic crate turns the animal on its side, presenting all four hooves at waist height. This makes it easier to trim the hooves, as well as easing the process for the cow.

In terms of cost, the real saving is in the early treatment of lameness. Following an animal’s fertility cycle can be difficult with lameness, as lame cows don’t climb on other cows.

The knock-on effect can mean a fertility opportunity being missed in the breeding cycle. Teagasc estimates this missed milk yield cost at €240 per cow.

It can take six weeks or more for the full signs of lameness to be visible. The cost of late identification can be €200 per cow, with treatments and antibiotics. With 20% lameness in a 100-cow herd, this comes to €4,000 per annum.

In Ireland, lameness generally varies from 20% to 50% per herd. Teagasc is planning to host a series of workshops next year on tackling lameness and fertility issues, an issue of growing concern with herd sizes and milk output set to increase post-2015 with the abolition of the EU’s quota regime.

Ballynoe Agri’s hydraulic crates start at €9,950 for the static unit.


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