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Research article2007Peer reviewedOpen access

Dairy cow preferences for soft or hard flooring when standing or walking

Telezhenko E, Lidfors L, Bergsten C


Concrete is the most commonly used alley flooring in confined dairy herds because of its qualities of construction and ease of cleaning. Nevertheless, the hardness, abrasiveness, and slipperiness of concrete floors have adverse effects on animal well- being and health, and yielding rubber flooring is becoming popular as a way of improving the flooring conditions on walkways. The aim of this study was to investigate preferences of dairy cows for rubber compared with concrete flooring under the conditions of a commercial dairy farm. The study was conducted in an organic dairy herd with free- stall housing. Floor preference was tested on groups of standing cows in a 120-m(2) holding pen before milking, and 1 yr later on a 12-x 3-m walkway. The holding pen and the walkway were divided lengthwise into 2 identical sections. Two types of solid rubber mats (soft and extra soft) were tested against solid concrete in the holding pen. Slatted and solid rubber mats were tested against slatted concrete in the walkway. Each floor type was tested over 4 d on the left side and 4 d on the right side of the holding pen and the walkway, respectively. Concrete flooring on both sides of the sections was tested as a control before the testing of different section materials. All observations of the distribution of cows in the sections were made from video recordings captured in association with the afternoon milking. The number of cows on each section was recorded approximately every 7 min in the holding pen, and continuously on the walkway. A significantly higher proportion of cows stood on the side with the soft and extra soft rubber mats ( 65.1 +/- 2.7 and 69.3 +/- 2.6%, respectively, mean +/- SEM) compared with the control distribution when only the solid concrete was available (50.9 +/- 3.9%). A significantly higher proportion of nonlame cows walked exclusively on the side with the slatted (64.5 +/- 5.4%, d 4) or solid rubber mats (68.2 +/- 5.1%, d 4) compared with controls (28.9 +/- 4.3%). Lame cows within a group of walking cows did not show a higher preference for soft flooring as distinct as nonlame cows (52.7 +/- 6.9 and 59.4 +/- 6.2% for the solid and slatted rubber mats, respectively, at d 4 vs. 40.3 +/- 6.2% for control), presumably because of competition with other, higher ranked cows. It was concluded that the majority of cows preferred to walk and stand on soft rubber rather than on concrete flooring


dairy cattle; preference test; rubber mat; lameness

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2007, Volume: 90, number: 8, pages: 3716-3724