Cubicles for dairy cows in loose housing : dimensions and partition design for more comfort and cleaner cows
Health and welfare of loose-housed dairy cows in cubicle stalls is related to the design of the cubicles. Problems with lack of cleanliness, disturbed behaviours and cow health still occur in modern dairy housing systems. The purpose of this work was to compile present knowledge of cubicles, especially the partition design. The main objective was to recommend a cubicle partition that would facilitate natural behaviours and maintain clean and healthy dairy cows. The study was made both as a literature review and as experiments. Researchers, Alfa Laval Agri AB market divisions and farmers were contacted throughout the study. Even though bedding materials and construction of the cubicle floor is of importance, it is only briefly mentioned in this study. A survey of research and recommendations made on cubicle design was carried out in the literature review. A summary of cubicles on the market and around the world today was also made. Field studies of preference, hygiene and lying down behaviour of dairy cows were used to evaluate how well cows performed in some various cubicle types. I each study, cows were monitored using time-lapse recording. The hypothesis was that partitions with obstructed side zones perform better than partitions that facilitate space sharing to the side. Another part of the experiment was to examine whether the cubicle training rail could be redesigned in order to facilitate more natural behaviours of cows, but still have functionality. The experiment compared occupancy and hygiene levels in two cubicle designs. Two already existing popular partition types were combined with brisket boards and training rail. Sixteen cows had free access to 8 cubicles of each type for a study period of two weeks. A hygiene study was also made of the cubicles, determining the level of hygiene in each cubicle by observing cubicle dirtiness twice a day during one week. Four cubicle designs were examined concerning the lying down and rising behaviour. Two cows were randomly chosen for the intense behavioural study. They were moved between the cubicle types (after an adaptation period) and monitored for 24 hours in each of the four cubicle types. The overall conclusion made from the experimental part is that long-term experiments need to be done to evaluate how cubicle design interacts with cow cleanliness and comfort. The behaviour of cows in cubicle systems corresponds to many constraints that need to be defined and held equal. However by observation, it seems to be easier to evaluate how well the animals perform natural behaviours in the cubicles than making conclusions about cleanliness and injuries. According to the results observed, a high placement of the training rail would add cubicle comfort. Anyhow, the use of a shoulder brace in the cubicle did not add lying comfort in the present experiment. A cubicle partition that facilitate more space sharing to the side in the front seems to be more attractive for the cows, and does not interact with a natural lying down behaviour. The back of the partition should guide the cows to lie down in a position that facilitate cubicle cleanliness. Thus, the hypothesis that partitions with obstructed side zones perform as well as a partition that facilitates space sharing to the side could not be continued.
dairy cows; cubicle; design; behaviour; hygien
Rapport - Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för lantbruksteknik
Publisher: Institutionen för lantbruksteknik, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet
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