The benefits of headlocks and post-and-rail feeding systems has been debated for years. However, new research shows that in a herd accustomed to headlocks, removing those headlocks does not improve dry matter intake or milk production.

The study, which was conducted during the summer of 2000, used 216 mid-lactation Holsteins that were housed in two-row free-stall barns. All barns had the same cow-cooling equipment - sprinklers over the feed line and fans above the head-to-head free-stalls.

A switch-back design, in which the cows were exposed to both treatments, was used. Cows exposed to headlocks produced, on average, 77.6 pounds of milk per day compared to those in the post-and-rail treatment that gave 76.5 pounds of milk per day. Pen dry matter intakes also were unaffected by the treatment. Cows exposed to headlocks ate, on average, 50.3 pounds of dry matter per day, and cows on the post-and-rail treatment ate 51.8 pounds per day. The differences in milk production and dry matter intake were not statistically significant.

The research was conducted by Kansas State University, with funding by the KSU Cow Comfort Consortium which is Land O'Lakes/Farmland Feeds, Hubbard Feeds, Kansas Dairy Commission, Monsanto, and the Western Dairy Management Conference.