Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Animal Health in Compost-Bedded Pack and Cubicle Dairy Barns in Six European Countries

Emanuelson, Ulf; Bruegemann, Kerstin; Klopcic, Marija; Leso, Lorenzo; Ouweltjes, Wijbrand; Zentner, Andreas; Blanco-Penedo, Isabel


Simple Summary Dairy barns with compost-bedded pack housing systems are relatively new in Europe. They have housing systems that are vastly different from traditional tie-stall or cubicle housing and provide possibilities for improved animal welfare. However, it is important to investigate how actual cow health is influenced. We used readily available data from 32 dairy herds throughout Europe, half of which had compost-bedded pack housing and half cubicle housing, to investigate differences in dairy cow health. We found that herds with compost-bedded packs had poorer udder health than did herds with cubicles, while they seemed to have fewer problems with reproductive disorders. Our conclusion was that there were few, relatively minor differences between the systems. This knowledge is valuable for farmers interested in applying new housing systems for dairy cows and for consumers who want to stay informed about production conditions in dairy herds. The purpose of this study was to compare animal health in compost-bedded pack (CBP) and cubicle housing (CH) systems using data from dairy herd improvement associations. Thirty-two commercial dairy farms located in Austria, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Sweden were included in the study. A matching design (pairing CBP and CH within country) according to herd selection criteria was used. We explored the following health indicators: somatic cell counts (SCC), high SCC, new high SCC, ketosis risk, prolonged calving intervals, dystocia, and stillbirth. Traits for culling and culling-related issues, such as length of life and length of productive life, were also included. We used multivariable (mixed) linear and logistic regression models to evaluate differences between the systems. Udder health, as measured by SCC, was inferior in CBP, although the geometric means were low in both systems. The incidence of stillbirths was higher in CBP, while prolonged calving intervals were fewer, indicating that there were fewer reproductive disorders. There were no differences in longevity between the systems, although CBP had lower proportions of first calvers. Overall, we conclude that there were few and minor differences in health and longevity between the CBP and CH systems in the European context.


dairy cattle; housing system; management; health traits; disease incidence; mastitis; longevity

Published in

2022, Volume: 12, number: 3, article number: 396