According to new data from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, headlocks in four-row free-stall barns can increase profits by $22 to $43 per head per year, depending on your management practices.

The economic analysis shows that headlocks can reduce feed losses by as much as 2.5 percent. That’s because cows can’t drop or toss feed as easily with headlocks, which means they waste less feed. In addition, recent research shows that headlocks don’t reduce feed intake or milk production.

Producers who don’t have headlocks also may pay up to 50 percent more for AI or veterinary services, says Gunnar Josefsson, dairy specialist with the University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits project.

When it’s all added up, the use of headlocks brings an annual net profit of about $43 per cow from reduced feed cost and labor savings. Even if you only consider reduced feed cost, headlocks still improve profits by about $22 per cow per year, says Josefsson.

However, these headlock advantages do not carry over to six-row barns, due to bunk-space limitations.