Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 76

Efficient Cow Comfort

Notes:

DeLaval 2006
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, without
permission from the publisher.

List of contents
I.

Introduction . ...................................................................................... 7

II.

DeLaval cow comfort approach .................................................. 9

III.

Animal signs ..................................................................................... 10


What are animal signs? . ........................................................................ 10
How to judge cow signs ........................................................................ 10

IV.



V.


VI.







VII.




Body condition score ..................................................................... 12


What is it? . ............................................................................................ 12
Why do body condition scoring? . ......................................................... 12
How to do body condition scoring ........................................................ 12
Recommendations for BCS management . ............................................ 15
Early lactation . ...................................................................................... 16
Dry period . ............................................................................................ 16
Locomotion score . .......................................................................... 17
What is it? . ............................................................................................ 17
What is a good locomotion score profile? ............................................. 17
Conclusions ........................................................................................... 18
The cow .............................................................................................. 19
Natural behaviour .................................................................................. 19
Fear of isolation ..................................................................................... 19
Noise . .................................................................................................... 19
Vision . ................................................................................................... 19
Space/freedom ....................................................................................... 20
Ranking ................................................................................................. 20
Data on different breeds ....................................................................... 20
Social behaviour . ............................................................................ 21
Grooming . ............................................................................................. 21
Bulling ................................................................................................... 22
Pasture situation .................................................................................... 22
Space/freedom ....................................................................................... 22

List of contents
Notes:

VIII. Reproduction ................................................................................... 23



The oestrus cycle ................................................................................... 23

Reproductive management .................................................................... 24

Detecting heat ........................................................................................ 25

Timing of insemination ......................................................................... 26
IX.



X.








Herd manager................................................................................... 27
Education ............................................................................................... 27
Expectations............................................................................................ 27
Herd management................................................................................... 28
Hygienic cow comfort ................................................................... 29
Lameness ............................................................................................... 29
Prevention . ............................................................................................ 29
Udder health .......................................................................................... 29
Mastitis................................................................................................... 29
Mastitis-causing organisms.................................................................... 30
Prevention............................................................................................... 30
Teat condition......................................................................................... 31
A scoring system for teat-end condition ................................................ 31
Hygiene score ........................................................................................ 32

XI. Resting ................................................................................................ 34



Lying down duration and frequency . ................................................. 34

Lying down ............................................................................................ 35

Standing up ............................................................................................ 35

Space requirements................................................................................. 36

Cubicle design ....................................................................................... 36

Bedding ................................................................................................. 37

Bedding materials .................................................................................. 37

Bedding treatment ................................................................................. 38

Stock density ......................................................................................... 40

Ventilation in resting area....................................................................... 40

Humidity in cubicles ............................................................................. 40

Fly control in resting area . .................................................................... 40

Ruminating during resting...................................................................... 40

Resting to prevent lameness .................................................................. 40


List of contents
XII.










Notes:

Walking .............................................................................................. 41
Surfaces ................................................................................................. 41
Wetness................................................................................................... 42
Way of walking....................................................................................... 43
Barn planning crossovers ................................................................... 44
Fertility influence of floor surface....................................................... 44
Floor hygiene.......................................................................................... 44
Solid and slatted floors .......................................................................... 45
Tied-up stalls ......................................................................................... 45
Hoof trimming........................................................................................ 45
Foot baths or foot spraying..................................................................... 46
Waste management manure ................................................................ 47

XIII. Drinking . ........................................................................................... 48



Space ..................................................................................................... 48

Temperature ........................................................................................... 48

Cleanliness . ........................................................................................... 49

Quality ................................................................................................... 49

Water supply and source . ...................................................................... 50

Positioning and barn planning................................................................ 50

Natural behaviour .................................................................................. 50

Ranking ................................................................................................. 50

XIV.




Feeding................................................................................................ 51
Space ..................................................................................................... 51
Ventilation ............................................................................................. 52
Positioning and barn planning ............................................................... 52
Natural feeding position......................................................................... 53
Frequency of eating and fresh feedstuff................................................. 53
Feeding strategies................................................................................... 54
Challenge feeding/feeding to yield......................................................... 54
Ranking................................................................................................... 54
Rumen check.......................................................................................... 54
Eating surfaces........................................................................................ 56
Manure scoring....................................................................................... 56

List of contents
Notes:

XV.



Ventilation ......................................................................................... 59
Barn planning ........................................................................................ 59
Heat stress............................................................................................... 59
Management........................................................................................... 59
Humidity . .............................................................................................. 60

XVI. Light .................................................................................................... 61



Productivity............................................................................................ 61

Melatonin . ............................................................................................. 62

XVII. Milking................................................................................................ 63

Frequency............................................................................................... 63

Parlour stress........................................................................................... 63

Production ............................................................................................. 63

Peak yield .............................................................................................. 64

Feeding during milking.......................................................................... 64

Cow moving and parlour traffic ............................................................ 64

Twelve golden rules................................................................................ 65

XVIII. Barn planning .................................................................................. 68



Checkpoints for barn planning .............................................................. 69

Safety earthing . .................................................................................. 70
XXI. Acknowledgements......................................................................... 71

References and links............................................................................... 71

Appendix................................................................................................ 74

I. Introduction
Talking about cow comfort involves listening to and understanding numerous
opinions on this issue. But what is real cow comfort? How can it be judged?
And maybe even more importantly, how can it contribute to profitable dairy
farming? Recently researchers and producers have put more attention on
creating a comfortable environment for dairy cows and their replacements.
Observation and experience show that cows housed in a comfortable environment produce more milk and generally live healthier, longer lives. Cows cant
explain what makes them comfortable. But we can observe and measure cow
activity, behaviour and environment then correlate our observations with
what appear to be comfortable cows.

Notes:

Cows should have plenty of quality feed and water, fresh air, a soft and clean
resting surface plus sound footing. Now thats cow comfort! Cows should behave naturally and stand or lie down easily. Is that happening in your dairy?
Mastitis, sore feet, rubbed necks, and rubbed or swollen hocks can indicate
cow comfort problems.
In this Efficient Cow Comfort booklet, you will find all the basic information
about cow comfort based on the behaviour and needs of cows. Cow comfort
is not a product or a tool it is what is happening in and around the barn 24
hours a day, seven days per week. Seasonal variations influence it. Above all,
cow comfort should be judged and managed with knowledge. Please read this
booklet and find out how cow comfort can contribute to your profitability. Tell
your DeLaval contact person your thoughts and together we will make dairy
farming profitable and comfortable.

Notes:

II. DeLaval cow comfort approach


The most comfortable milking system in the world can not be efficient if your
cows are not comfortable. To help you judge cow comfort on your farm, we
are using a DeLaval cow comfort approach to guide you in a structured way
through your farm.

Notes:

DeLaval uses three main criteria to judge cow comfort including:


Animal signs: see, listen and feel the cow and judge whether she is healthy
or not. Find more related information in chapter III.
Body condition score (BCS): score your cows according to a standardised
score method on body fat in relation to lactation stage. Find more related
information in chapter IV.
Locomotion score: score the lameness of your cows according to a
standardised scoring method. This will help to identify potential problems
before a cow becomes obviously lame. Find more information in chapter V.
Checking all three areas gives valuable data on your herd health to help you
decide which areas of your dairy operation need to be adjusted or can be improved on. Enhancing cow comfort will improve your bottom line.
Assess cow comfort with DeLaval and youll know what piece is missing to
increase your cow comfort level.

Did you know?


A cow produces 100 to
200 litres of saliva every
day. That helps her to
keep an even pH in the
rumen.

III. Animal signs


Notes:

Your cows are continually telling you how well youre doing in providing them
with good health, excellent housing and superb feeding. The Cow Signals concept helps you to pick up this information and use it to improve the welfare,
health and production of your cows in a very practical way.
Remember, dairy farming is about cows.
Jan Hulsen
Author of Cow Signals
What are animal signs?
A cow gives signals all the time about her welfare and health. She does this
with behaviour, attitude, body language and body condition. You can use these
cow signs to optimise your herd health, comfort and milk production results.
Train yourself to observe, evaluate, and find solutions for the benefit of your
cows and business.
Ask yourself:
What do I see?
What is causing this?
What does this mean?
How to judge cow signs
Judging an animal is not as easy as it may look. Please study the animal signs
table closely and learn it by heart. Each time you walk among your cows, select one and check her in accordance with the key indicators for a healthy cow
as outlined here. Once you have checked a few cows like this, you will start to
gain an understanding of cow comfort and see possible issues that may need
resolving. Please do not draw conclusions in this phase, as you still need to
check the body condition score and the locomotion score.

10

Notes:

Animal signs

Performance: cows should perform comfortably with minimal stress. An unbalanced walk or a curved back
could indicate lameness or digestion problems.
Condition: cow condition tells you a lot about the rations you have fed the cow. Cows too fat or too skinny
will not produce to their full potential. Use body condition score to assess condition.
Temperature: a cow should have a temperature of 38 to 39 C. Cold ears might indicate milk fever or blood
circulation problems.
Legs: heel erosion or skinned heels are mainly caused by problems with bedding or bedding materials,
incorrectly adjusted barn equipment and/or hoof infection.
Ruminating: a cow should ruminate for seven to 10 hours per day, ruminating 40 to 70 times on a cud.
Taking less time indicates inadequate rations.
Manure: should not be too thick or thin and should never have undigested particles in it.
Alert: a healthy cow looks alert and powerful, with a glossy skin and a full stomach.
Neck: a swollen neck is mainly caused by a feed fence being too low or incorrectly adjusted barn equipment.
Hooves: healthy cows stand straight and still while eating. Tipping or walking with lame gait are signs of
poor hoof health. This can be caused by bad rations, poor floors or lack of hoof treatment. Always look
underneath hoofs during hoof trimming for extra signs and judge hoof health with locomotion scoring.
Udder: to assess udder health, look carefully at the teats after milking. Good teats are flexible and naturally
coloured. Poor udder health can be caused by hygiene problems, poor milking equipment installation or
inadequate feed rations.
Rumen: rumen should be filled with feed. The left side of the stomach (seen from behind the cow) should
protrude. If you press your fist into the rumen it should contract firmly about 10 to 12 times in five minutes.
Breathing: normal breathing ranges from 10 to 30 breaths a minute for a cow. Faster breathing indicates
heat stress or pain and fever.

Did you know?


The oldest cow ever
recorded was a Dremon
cow named Big Bertha.
She lived for 48 years,
from 1948 to 1993.

11

IV. Body condition score


Notes:

What is it?

One purpose of this booklet is to show how the simple technique of body
condition scoring (BCS) can contribute significantly to good husbandry and
management of dairy cows. This will help to ensure that the cow is in the correct condition for each stage of her annual cycle and that appropriate dietary
changes can be made in order to correct any deficiencies.
Why do body condition scoring?
Body condition indicates how much stored energy a cow has for future use.
BCS can help you track energy balance and understand production and
reproductive performance.
The most common body condition scoring system ranks cows from one to
five with a score of one being thin and a score of five being obese. It was
developed at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA.
Areas to evaluate when body condition scoring include hooks, pins, tailhead,
and the ligaments around these bones.
Body condition of feeding groups should be evaluated. It will reflect the true
energy content of the diet.
Cows should be scored at calving during their first postpartum exam, when
bred, when checked for pregnancy, some time during late lactation and at
dry-off.
An evaluation of body condition can help you understand the past nutritional
status of your cows and why your milk production and reproductive performance results are good or bad. It will also show you some of the challenges to
come. Body condition is an indication of how much energy a cow has stored
for future usage. Body condition scoring was developed to help farmers and
nutritionists more definitively assess and track body condition. This is very important because the monthly changes in body condition tend to be more highly
correlated with health, productivity, and reproduction than a cows actual body
condition on any particular day.

Did you know?


No two cows have exactly
the same pattern of spots.

12

How to do body condition scoring


You use sight and touch to evaluate the amount of fat covering the loin, rump
and tail head with a score from one to five. The most critical areas to be evaluated are the hook and pin bones, the ligaments going to the hook and pin bones
from the spine and the tail head. Studies show that the amount of fat at these
points on the body is related to the amount of fat inside the cow. Body condition scoring is better for monitoring body energy reserves than body weight.
Body weight can change due to changes in body fat, frame size, gut size and
udder size.

Notes:

Body condition score chart


Body condition
Score

Vertebrae at
the middle of
the back

Rear view (cross


section) of the
hook bones

Side view of the


line between the
hook and pin bones

Cavity between
tail head and pin bone
Rear view Angeled view

1. Severe under conditioning

2. Frame obvious

3. Frame and
covering well
balanced
4. Frame not as
visible as
covering
5. Severe over conditioning

Source (adapted from): A.J. Edmondson, I.J. Lean, C.O. Weaver, T. Farver and G. Webster. 1989.
A body condition scoring chart for Holstein dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 72:68- 78.

BCS = 1.5
This cow is too thin and is hopefully rarely seen on a farm. This cow will not
milk well or reproduce. This cow probably isnt healthy. The vertebrae, short
ribs, hooks, pins, and tail head are very sharp and visible. One-half of the
length of the transverse processes is visible. The ligaments are easily seen. The
area around the tail head and the dish of the rump (thurl) are very dished. There
are folds of skin seen between the tail head and pins.
BCS = 2
This cow is very thin, causing low milk production and poor reproduction.
Health may be OK. The spine and short ribs can be easily seen, but the individual vertebrae are not really apparent. The short ribs appear scalloped. The
upper surfaces of the short ribs can be felt. One-half to a third of the length of
the transverse processes is visible. The hooks and pins stand out. No fat can be
felt on the pin bones. The ligaments are sharp and easily seen. The areas around
the tail head and the thurl area are very dished. There are folds of skin between
the tail head and pins.
BCS = 2.5
It is a reasonable goal not to have more than 10 percent of the herd scoring 2.5
or less. This is the lowest acceptable condition score. A cow with a score of 2.5
has vertebrae showing but they cannot be seen as individual bones. The short

13

Notes:

ribs can be counted but are not scalloped. One-third to a quarter of the length
of the transverse processes is visible. The ligaments are easily seen but not as
sharp as with a BCS of 2.0. Both the hooks and pins are angular but some fat
can be felt on the pin. The areas around the tail head and thurl are dished.
BCS = 3.0
This cow could be a healthy, high-producing cow. But, if a cow calves in at
a score of 3.0 or less, she may not have enough body fat to use for high peak
milk production and to carry her through until dry matter intake increases. At
this score, the dish of the rump (thurl) is at the transition between looking like
a U and looking like a V. Any cow under a BCS of 3.0 has a thurl area
looking like a V. The backbone can be seen but the individual vertebrae are
rounded. Covering the short ribs is half to one inch of flesh. Less than quarter
the length of the transverse processes is visible. There is fat covering the ligaments but they are still obvious. The hooks and pins have some fat that can be
felt. The area around the tail head is dished but no folds of skin are seen.
BCS = 3.5
Dry cows and calving cows should have a body condition score of 3.5. On this
cow, fat can be felt on the backbone, short ribs, and ligaments. The hooks and
pins are rounded. No individual transverse processes can be seen. The thurl is
somewhat dished. The coccygeal (tail head) ligament is barely visible but the
sacral ligament can still be seen. The area around the tail head is rounded and
filled in but not fat.
BCS = 4.0
Cows calving in at this condition will eat less, lose more weight and have
more metabolic problems. This cows back is flat because fat has filled it in.
The short ribs can not be seen individually but they can just barely be felt. The
hooks and pins are obviously fat. The U between the hooks and pins is very
flat with no depression. The ligaments cannot be seen. The area around the tail
head is filled in and folds of fat are seen.
BCS = 5.0
This cow is extremely fat and will have metabolic and breeding problems. The
backbone and short ribs cannot be seen and are hard to feel. The hooks and
pins are buried in fat and hard to feel. The thurl is totally filled in. The tail head
is buried in fat.

14

Notes:

Target body condition scores for milking cows

Body condition score

5.0

4.0

3.0

2.0

Calving

Conception
Peak
lactation

Drying off

Calving

Source: Hulsen, Jan, Koesignalen.

Recommendations for BCS management


It is recommended that cows be scored at calving, during their first postpartum
exam, when bred, when checked for pregnancy, some time during late lactation and at dry-off. Nutritionists feeding groups of cows should determine the
average BCS of each feeding group. Body condition should be the final word
on the energy content of the diet, rather than the computer predicted energy
value of the ration. If the cows are too thin during early lactation, adjust the
energy content of the diet upward and focus on ways to increase dry matter
intake. Determine if metabolic problems are extreme and may be causing the
weight loss. Late lactation cows use energy for body reserves more efficiently
than dry cows (75 percent vs. 60 percent efficiency). So it is recommended that
cows be put on condition during mid to late lactation (after 75 to 100 days in
milk) and achieve the desired calving BCS of 3.5 at that time, rather than during the dry period. If cows are too heavy in late lactation, reduce the energy
content of the diet immediately rather than putting them on a diet during the
dry period.
When feeding cows as a group, it is important that the group have a fairly uniform BCS. If they do not, there is most likely a problem. Perhaps some cows
are experiencing severe metabolic problems which reduce dry matter intake
early in their lactation. Perhaps cows are not being fed a true total mixed ration
(TMR). For example, cows may be sorted or they are being offered hay separately. Perhaps there are hoof and leg problems that limit some cows from getting to the feed bunk. There may be severe reproductive problems that causing
some cows to stay in a particular group longer than they should they will be

15

Notes:

getting fat while others in the group are milking well and getting the nutrients
that they need. If the group is not uniform, it is difficult to design the ration to
feed all cows properly. Most likely, the compromise will have to be that some
cows do not receive a ration with adequate nutrient density while others get too
much. The cows receiving too much will get fat and waste consumed nutrients.
For more information on cow nutrition and TMR, see the DeLaval booklet
Efficient Feeding or visit www.delaval.com click on Dairy Knowledge, then
Efficient Feeding.
Early lactation
We know that a significant amount of the energy a high-producing cow uses to
make milk in early lactation comes from her body fat reserves. Weight losses
of one to one-and-a-half kilograms per day, are not uncommon during the first
100 days in milk. Forty-five grams of mobilised fat can support about three
kilograms of milk. Many herds will average 0.5 body condition loss by 30
days in milk. A good goal is not to exceed 0.5 body condition loss during that
time. It is critical that cows do not exceed one point of body condition loss by
30 days in milk. Cows with excessive body condition losses will have irregular
heats, longer time to first ovulation and may fail to conceive. These cows will
also be less persistent in milk production.
Cows with a BCS over 3.75 at two weeks prior to calving are more prone to
having depressed intakes, weight loss, fatty liver, ketosis, high non-esterified
fatty acid (NEFA) levels, calving and reproductive problems. When a cow
loses body fat reserves, especially two weeks before and after calving, the
liver takes up fat and processes it. Fatty liver and ketosis can then develop. In
a Michigan study, eight percent of dry cows with a BCS of less than 4.0 had
health problems while 17 percent of cows with a BCS of more than 4.0 had
health problems. In another study, cows that had a BCS of 4.0 or greater at dry
off were 2.5 times more likely to have reproductive problems.

Did you test?


Check the locomotion
score and BCS every
month.

16

Even if one could avoid the health and reproductive problems associated with
fat cows, it is inefficient to put excessive weight on (>3.75 BCS) during late
lactation and the dry period, then have to take it off after calving. It takes energy for the cow to process body fat and then to mobilise it for later use.
Dry period
It is not recommended to put over-conditioned cows on a diet at dry-off due to
the risk of fatty liver. It is inefficient but acceptable to put body condition on
during the dry period if it is needed to achieve a BCS of 3.5 at calving. Total
body weight should increase during the dry period regardless of body condition because the calf developing inside the cow will gain 45 to 68 grams per
day.

V. Locomotion score
Notes:

What is it?

Locomotion score is a qualitative index of a cows ability to walk normally. It


is visually scored on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0, where a score of 1.0 reflects a cow
that walks normally and a score of 5.0 reflects a cow that is three-legged lame.
A locomotion score can be visually assessed in only a few seconds per cow.
Generally, locomotion scores of 2.0 and 3.0 are considered to represent subclinically lame cows, while locomotion scores of 4.0 and 5.0 represent cows
that are clinically lame. A locomotion score higher than 1.0 does not indicate
why a cows gait is affected; it merely shows that she has some degree of gait
abnormality (i.e. lameness). Scores higher than 1.0 may suggest intervention is
advised with individual cows or a group of cows, to determine the cause of the
gait irregularity.
Locomotion score chart

1.0

2.0

3.0

4.0

5.0

Normal with flat back


Cow stands and walks with a level back. Gait is normal.

Mildly lame
Cow stands with a level back, but develops an arched back to walk. Normal gait.

Moderately lame
Arched back is evident while standing and walking. Walks with a short lame stride.

Lame
Arched back is always evident and gait is one deliberate step at a time. Cow favours
one or more legs/hooves.

Severely lame
A three-legged cow which demonstrates an inability or extreme reluctance to bear
weight on one or more limbs/hooves.

Source (adapted from): Steven L. Berry, DVM, MPVM; Univ. of Davis, CA, and Zinpro Corporation
1997, in J Hulsen, Cow Signals.

What is a good locomotion score profile?


It is realistically impossible to have no lameness in a herd if any cow locomotion scoring over 1.0 is considered to be expressing some degree of lameness.
But it is possible to eliminate clinical lameness (locomotion score of 4.0 and
5.0). Research found that this was achieved in a high production group in one
commercial herd in California. A reasonable goal might be to have more than
65 percent of the herd scoring 1.0 with less than three percent scoring 4.0.
Cows with a locomotion score of 5.0 should be immediately removed to the
treatment area, even if its just for their own welfare.
So how does a cow spontaneously become less lame? The answer is in the
nature of the locomotion scoring system. This system does not actually assess lameness in favour of scoring back posture and stride. While these factors
are clearly associated with lameness, they do not identify why a cow is lame.

17

Notes:

Physical injury, heel warts, sole abscess, a stone in the hoof, even a sore belly
(acidosis, displaced abomasum, hardware) will all affect back posture and
stride. Some of these conditions correct themselves, so those cows then walk
more easily and appear less lame as assessed by locomotion score. But clearly
a locomotion score of 3.0 or higher indicates that the cow should be examined
to determine the reason for the lameness. If necessary, take action to correct it.
Keep in mind that the reason for the high locomotion score may not be found
in the legs or hooves.
Conclusions
Locomotion scoring is a relatively quick and simple qualitative assessment
of the ability of cows to walk normally. If locomotion score is collected regularly (e.g. monthly), it can be used to identify specific cows at risk of becoming clinically lame which should be examined to determine the cause of their
lameness.
Group profile locomotion scores can be used to determine expected milk
revenue losses in a dairy or a group of cows within a dairy. That estimated loss
can be used to determine if general interventions of either a management or
nutritional nature are warranted. Finally, regularly collected locomotion score
profiles can provide a running index of the extent of lameness and give an
index of the impact of interventions designed to alleviate lameness.

Did you know?


You can guess the age
of a cow with horns by
counting the number of
rings on the horns.

18

VI. The cow


Notes:

Natural behaviour

Checking up on cow comfort means going back in time to find out what natural behaviour is for a cow. In earlier times cows were kept on pasture and able
to follow natural behaviour patterns. However these patterns have been constrained because cows have been moved into barns and stables. To judge the
level of cow comfort, it is most important to know how a cow acts naturally.
The more natural her behaviour is in the barn, the better it will be for her and
you. Below is a simplified daily time budget for lactating dairy cattle.
Daily time budget for lactating dairy cow
Activity

Time devoted to activity per day

Eating

3 to 5 hours (9 to 14 meals per day)

Lying/resting

12 to 14 hours

Social interactions

2 to 3 hours

Ruminating

7 to 10 hours

Drinking

30 minutes

Outside pen (milking, travel time)

2.5 to 3.5 hours

Source: Grant, Rick: Incorporating dairy cow behavior into management tools.

Fear of isolation
Cows are herd animals and become highly stressed when separated from the
rest of the group. For example, it has been found that a cow left alone in a
stanchion has increased leukocytes in her milk. Move animals into groups and
have them follow the leader.
Noise
Cows are more sensitive to noise than people are. Cows ears are most sensitive to high frequency noises of 8000 Hz, while people are highly sensitive at
1000 to 3000 Hz. For this reason, cows may be more sensitive to grating noises like metal rubbing on metal, than people. Intermittent and strange noises are
especially stressful to cows. Cows that normally live a quiet life will be more
noise sensitive than cows which dont. In a Texas study, a ringing telephone
significantly increased the heart rate of the calves on pasture. Continuously
playing the radio at a normal sound level can help cows to tolerate unexpected
noises.
Vision
Cows have wide-angle vision and can see for 300 degrees around them. But
cows only have 3D vision looking directly in front, so this is the only direction
in which they can estimate distances well. Blocking their vision by using solid
chutes and gates can reduce their stress during handling. Cows can also see
colours and will balk at sudden colour changes. They recognize people by the
colour of their clothes. If you have to treat a cow and know that it will hurt her,
wear the right coloured clothing and do the treatment in a special place instead
of her stall or the parlour.

Did you
calculate?
What is your average herd
age? What will you earn if
you invest in cow comfort
to increase the average
age by six months?

Did you know?


There are an estimated
920 cow breeds in the
world.

19

Notes:

Space/freedom
A cow has her own escape zone around her and when another animal or
human passes the border of this zone she will react by attacking, socialising
or escaping. The size of the zone depends on the character of the cow; a calm
cow needs a smaller personal space than a nervous cow. Heifers need a
bigger personal space than older animals. During a cows life, her personal
space decreases as she becomes more accustomed to people and their living
environment. As cows age, they frequently become higher in rank too, so they
are no longer afraid of other cows.
Ranking
All herds have a social hierarchy. It is usually shown by head bunting,
pushing or avoidance. Heifers that are raised together tend to associate
together and be less aggressive towards each other. Grouping strategy impacts
social interactions. Over-crowding will usually increase the negative effects of
social interactions. In one study where feed was limited and competition was
high, dominant cows ate 23 percent more feed than submissive cows.
Fresh cows, first-calf heifers and recently moved cows are often submissive in
a group. Larger cows, older cows and cows with more seniority in a group are
often more dominant.
In every herd there is a dominant cow called the bull cow and there can be
more than one. This cow behaves differently to her herd mates. For instance,
when all the cows walk away from you, this cow will come toward you. Many
farmers dont know their bull cow/s.
Data on different breeds
All over the world there are different breeds of cows used to produce milk.
The most common breeds are Holstein, Friesian, Jersey and Brown Swiss. The
composition of their milk varies between different breeds and during lactation
within breeds.
Breeds across the world
Breed

Fat percentage

Protein percentage

Lactose percentage

Brown Swiss

3.80

3.38

4.80

Holstein

3.56

3.02

4.61

Jersey

4.97

3.65

4.70

Did you know?

Egyptian buffalo

7.90

4.00

4.80

There are 207 bones in a


cows body.

Ayrshire

3.86

3.15

4.60

20

VII. Social behaviour


Social interactions can impact feeding time, ruminating time and water
intake. Dominant cows may inhibit submissive cows from eating at the bunk,
drinking water, or lying down. Fresh cows, first-calf heifers and recently moved
cows are often the submissive cows in a group. Larger cows, older cows and
cows with more seniority in a group are often more dominant. Social interactions are often highest when fresh feed is offered or right after milking. Social
interactions are also more of a problem when alleys are narrow and cows have
difficulty passing other cows.

Notes:

Social interactions are part of natural herd behaviour. But it is important to have
good conditions in the barn, such as space at the feeding area, space around water bowls or troughs and enough good cubicles for cows to rest in. With good
barn conditions social interactions will have less influence on milk production.
The more similar cows are to one another in a group, the fewer social problems
will occur. There will be less of a negative effect from overcrowding if:
cows can be easily and rapidly moved to and from the parlour.
the ration is fed and supplied often throughout the day.
the cows in the group are fairly similar.

Did you test?


Run your fingers through
a cows hair coat. Your
fingers should come out
free of moisture.

Grooming
Cattle have a distinct urge to lick and be licked by their peers. Licking behaviour
is a normal behavioural manifestation. All the animals in a group are licked, but
not all the animals lick. Animals of similar rank lick each other more often than
animals of very different ranks. Social licking is often associated with a change
of activities, such as before or after a rest. Licking seems to have a calming effect after cattle have been disturbed. Cattle need social grooming and if this need
cannot be met because the animal is tethered or such like the need accumulates
and will result in intensified grooming activity as soon as the possibility arises.

Did you know?


Dairy cows can produce
up to 91 kilos of farts and
flatus (burps) a day!

21

Notes:

Cows like to groom their body against a brush. Cow brushes improve animal
welfare by increasing blood circulation while keeping the cows clean, busy and
calm. When a brush is not available for cows they will groom against the cubicles and feed fences in the barn. This is not desirable, as cows can hurt themselves and damage the barn equipment. The function of grooming is to remove
droppings, urine and parasites while maintaining the condition of skin and hair.
Bulling
The best indicator of oestrus is when any cow or heifer repeatedly stands and accepts mounting by one of her herd mates. Unfortunately, they do not do this on
demand. Those responsible for oestrus detection must watch for this behaviour
and combining what they see with their own previous knowledge/experience,
to decide whether to inseminate or not. The social order of precedence is interrupted by cows on heat as they threaten both dominating and subordinate herd
members.

Did you test?


Which is the bull cow and
how does she behaves?

Did you know?

Cows can sense an


impending storm by the
lowering pressure before
a storm and will lie down.

22

Pasture situation
Cows are herd animals and accustomed to doing things in groups. When dominant cows start grazing, the other cows will follow. That is why you will see the
whole herd of cattle grazing at the same moment.
Space/freedom
Limited space is one of the main reasons for aggression among cattle. If space is
limited, cows will often meet each other at very close range with limited escape
options.

VIII. Reproduction
Reproduction is a necessary and important part of milk production. Without
regular calvings when the cow produces milk to feed her calf, it would be impossible to produce the desired amount of milk. It is also important to produce sufficient heifer calves as replacement animals to allow herd size to be maintained
or expanded. Average replacement rates are between 20 to 25 percent. If replacement needs are higher, it indicates problems and possible poor cow comfort.

Notes:

Today, it is most common to use artificial insemination (AI) instead of a bull. AI


increases control over reproduction and enables the dairy farmer to use semen
selected from global genetic breeding programmes to increase the genetic gain.
However, it also simultaneously increases the need for good planning, well structured working routines and very good observation. Another way to get a cow in
calf is to use the embryo transfer technique. So far this is relatively uncommon,
but it is expected to increase in importance. The main advantage with embryo
transfer is that it is possible to generate more calves from a good cow.
The oestrus cycle
As long as a cow or heifer is not pregnant she will normally have a 21-day
oestrus cycle. The length of the oestrus cycle may vary but it usually ranges
from about 17 to 24 days. A heifer normally has an oestrus cycle slightly shorter
than a cow. The cycle will continue until the cow is in calf. After calving, cows
normally undergo a 20 to 30 day period when oestrus cycles do not occur. This
period can increase in high yielding cows, unable to take in enough energy to
fully cover milk production. The cow will protect herself and will wait to get in
oestrus again.
Oestrus cycle chart
Progesterone

Oestrogen

Level
Heat

18

21

Heat

12

15

18

21

Days of oestrus cycle

Source: DeLaval 2001; Efficient Dairy Herd Management.

The oestrus cycle is controlled by a complex system involving different hormones produced in the brain and ovary. The diagram above shows a simplified
picture of how two of these hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, vary
depending on where the cow is in the oestrus cycle. Some cows do not follow
the normal oestrus cycle. For example a cow can be unoestrus, which means her

Did you know?


Big Bertha holds the
record for lifetime breeding because she produced
39 calves.

23

Notes:

ovaries do not function on the regular 17 to 24-day cycle and are therefore not
observed to be in heat. Other cows may suffer from ovarian cysts. These cows
will show heat at very short intervals and the period that they are in heat will
last three to four days.
Reproductive management
Depending on breed, the optimal age for first calving is around two years. Then
ideally a cow gives birth to a calf every year, meaning every 365 days. Research
by the Swedish Association for Livestock has shown that sub-optimal calving
intervals cause substantial economic losses to dairy farmers second in importance only to mastitis. Milking cows in late lactation are less profitable due to
the decline in production over the milking cycle. A long calving interval means
milking less profitable cows due to the decline in production, fewer calves, and
too many cows with low feed conversion efficiencies. Therefore, successful
reproductive management has a significant impact on the herds overall performance and the net income. Well managed reproduction also reduces the risk
of expensive involuntary culling.
Distribution of controlled Swedish herds in relation to calving interval and production level
Average calving interval (days)

Production level (kilograms of milk/cow/year)


-4499

4 500-5 499

5 500-6 499

6 500-7 499

7 500-

<365

6%

7%

7%

9%

11%

365-377

18%

20%

28%

36%

43%

378-392

23%

28%

34%

36%

33%

393-408

18%

22%

19%

14%

10%

>409

35%

23%

12%

5%

3%

Source: SHS; Swedish Association for Livestock, breeding and production.

The time of the calving interval that is possible to influence by management


is the open days. These days are determined by the voluntary waiting period
(VWP) and the breeding window (BW). Missed heats are a common reason for
undesirably long calving intervals. With improved heat detection rate (HDR)
and conception rate (CR) via better management and improved timing of inseminations, it is possible to obtain a significantly shorter calving interval.
Factors affecting the calving interval
Time of conception
VWP

BW

Calving

HDR and CR

Gestation
Calving

Open Days
Controllable
Source: DeLaval; Efficient Dairy Herd Management.

24

Uncontrollable

Detecting heat
The most sexually intensive period of the oestrus cycle is during standing heat,
which lasts for approximately 18 hours. In loose-housing herds, this period is
indicated by the cow in heat standing immobile when mounted by another cow
or bull. The duration of heat varies from animal to animal, but approximately 10
to 12 hours after the end of standing heat, the egg is released (ovulation) and the
heat ends.

Notes:

Reproductive activity table


Bellowing
Increased activity
Walking the fence line
Licking/Sniffing
Swelling and reddening of the vulva
Mounting other cows
Lower milk yield
Reduced feed intake
The sexually intensive period.
Developed from Basics of reproductive function, www.milkproduction.com

Manual heat detection


Manual heat detection relies on manual observations in the barn. The cows and
heifers should be observed for oestrus two to three times per day, with all observed heats recorded whether the animal is bred or not. The records provide the
manager with information to anticipate future heats, which will make it easier to
distinguish if a cow is really in heat or not. Most mounting occurs between 18.00
and 06.00 so it is therefore important to check for heat during these hours. To
facilitate planning and record keeping, a cow calendar is often used. This can be
either manual or computerised.
The disadvantage with manual detection is that it is very time demanding and
requires people with the ability to observe the right signs. This is particularly
important when there are no distinct signs of heat. By using progesterone testing
or other tools on the market, the detection rate can be improved.
Automatic heat detection
Another way to identify cows in heat is to monitor their activity. Cows can be up
to eight times more active than normal while in heat. The activity can be monitored automatically by using activity meters attached to the neck band or leg. By
comparing the amount of activity with the last observed heat, actual milk yield
and feed consumption, a reliable indication of heat is obtained. An activity meter
will generate significant time savings and improve calving intervals through better heat detection. For instance, a study1) has shown that the daily cost for extended calving intervals is Euro 3 while the cost for each heat missed is Euro 61.

25

Notes:

Timing of insemination
With artificial insemination, the timing of the insemination becomes important.
The optimum time for insemination depends on when the ovulation occurs in
relation to the heat and for how long the semen is viable. Most semen remains
viable for about 24 hours. The ovums life is only about four hours, a very short
moment of opportunity. It is therefore preferable that viable semen is present
in the sample during ovulation. As illustrated below, ovulation normally occurs
about 30 hours after the start of standing heat.
Insemination timing chart
Optimum
insemination time

Most fertile period

Ovulation

Standing heat

10

15

20

25

30

Hours

Source: DeLaval 2001: Efficient Dairy Herd Management.

There are two main rules for the timing of insemination. Traditionally the AM/
PM rule was the one dairy producers followed. This rule dictates that cows and
heifers first observed in heat in the morning should be bred late in the afternoon.
Likewise, cows and heifers first observed in heat in the afternoon should be bred
the following morning.
This is still a good rule, but many producers have now successfully gone to
once-a-day insemination. This rule dictates that cows and heifers first observed
in oestrus in the afternoon or the following morning, should be bred later that
day.

26

IX. Herd manager


Notes:

Education

A farmer is trained to get the highest yields from the lowest costs, to make a
good profit. Experience, education and training all emphasise this. But most
training emphasizes only direct costs and how to influence them. Training on
cow comfort or on raising young stock is less common.
Average European dairy farm expenses

Animal purchase

8%

2%

Feed (purch., fert, seed, pesticides)

24%

Machinery (maint, depr., contractor)


Fuel, energy, lubricants, water
Buildings (maint., depr.)
Vet & medicine, insemination

27%

Insurance, taxes
Other inputs dairy enterprise
Other inputs

13%

Total land costs


Total labour costs
Total capital costs

6%
3%
2%

2% 5%

5%

3%

Source: EDF-Report 2001; Cost comparison analysis. Time series analysis. Database. European Dairy Farmers. Lellens, Frankfurt, Braunschweig.

Expectations
A farmer expects a lot from his cows. They have to produce a lot of milk, deliver a calf once a year and have minimal health problems. However, you can
compare cows with high performance sportsmen. Even the very best competitors cant do well without good conditions. Cows cannot deliver on the farmers expectations without living in optimal conditions.
The farmer has to create an environment in which the cows feel happy and
comfortable, so the cows can deliver what the farmer expects. Working with
comfortable and healthy cows will certainly pay off with more expectations
satisfied and more profitable farming.

Did you test?


What has been the
average age on calving
Did
you
know?
and the
average
age of
cows on your farm over
There are more cows
the past 10 years?
than people in Australia,
New Zealand, Brazil and
Ireland.

27

Notes:

28

Herd management
To achieve all this, the farmer or farm manager will collect and assess all available data to influence the management strategy. It is easiest to assess hard data
on direct costs for food, feedstuff and machinery. The indirect costs like missed
heat, culled cows or bad climate for the herd are more difficult to measure. As a
cow needs at least two years to grow from calf to cow and makes no contribution to profit during this time, she clearly needs at least three lactations for the
farmer to break even just on the cost of raising the cow. It takes more than three
lactations to generate profit. Therefore a successful farmer aiming to maximise
benefits from each cow will look at the cows differently.

X. Hygienic cow comfort


Lameness

Notes:

There are many factors which can cause lameness such as an infection, a low
fibre diet or nerve damage-at calving time. Lame cows that do not respond to
treatment will spend increasingly long periods of time lying down. Their milk
production will decline through reduced food and water intake. Often these
cows require prolonged nursing and treatment. If sent for processing, these
cows may also require lengthy withdrawal periods first to avoid drug residues.
Some cows may become unable to stand up during treatment or withdrawal
time. The best way to prevent a totally incapacitated cow is with careful herd
observation, early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Early identification of potential problem cows followed by appropriate action, can prevent severe lameness, improve mobility in a moderately lame cow and increase her productive
lifetime. You should always consider whether or not a lame cow can be cured.
If not, culling the cow is the only option because her suffering will increase as
time goes by without treatment.
Prevention
Lameness may be prevented by the following means:
Select breeding stock for good hooves and legs.
Feed cows rations that contain adequate fibre and minerals.
Divide the grain ration into three or more feedings per day to prevent
laminitis.
Keep yards, laneways and pastures free of areas that are wet and muddy so
that you can prevent the spread of infection.
Trim hooves at least once per year; two times per year is
recommended.
Prevent lameness due to nerve damage at calving time through good
judgment, proper and careful use of calf pullers and early consideration of
caesarean section.
Increase resting time.
Use a footbath frequently. (See Walking, chapter XII).

Udder health
Mastitis
Mastitis is the most expensive disease in the dairy industry today. Losses are
estimated to be as much as Euro184 per cow annually. It is obvious that dairy
farmers must control this disease to achieve maximum profit from their enterprise.

Did you
calculate?
Did you test?
Based
on average
Euro 250age
peron
What the
lameness
and
100 cow
calving and
theaaverage
dairy
to
age ofherd,
cowsyou
on need
your farm
decrease
from
have beenlameness
over the past
25
10 percent
years? to 22 percent
to break even a Euro 5800
investment (13 percent
annual cost).

29

Notes:

Cost of mastitis based on Euro 200 cow/year

Treatment 3%

Veterinary 2%

Discarded milk 6%

Labour 1%
Lost milk 67%

Replacements 22%

Source: W.D. Gilson; Percentage of loss for various categories.

Mastitis-causing organisms
About 95 percent of all infections are caused by Streptococcus agalactiae,
Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus dysgalactiae, Streptococcus uberis and
and Escherichia coli. The remaining five percent are caused by other organisms.

Did you know?


Many states in the US
observe Cow Appreciation
Day usually in July.

Did you test?


Score your cows on hygiene every three months
and check what causes
some cows to be dirty.

Contagious organisms
Contagious organisms are spread by hands, milking units, etc. They include
Strep. agalactiae, Staph. aureus and Strep. dysgalactiae. Strep. agalactiae lives
in the udder and cannot exist outside it. It is susceptible to penicillin and once
eliminated, usually does not return to the herd unless infected cows are purchased. Staph. aureus lives in the udder and on the skin surfaces of an infected
cow. It can be controlled effectively with good management and is moderately
susceptible to antibiotics when the infection first involves the gland.
Older infections usually do not respond to treatment. Severe cases may cause
death. Strep. dysgalactiae lives almost anywhere, from the udder and rumen to
faeces and the barn. It can be controlled with proper sanitation and is moderately susceptible to antibiotics.
Environmental organisms
Environmental organisms live in the cows environment and are always
present. E. coli bacteria are environmental pollution organisms which live in
faeces, polluted water and bedding material. Excellent environmental and premilking teat hygiene is needed for their control. They are not susceptible to
antibiotics. Strep. uberis live almost everywhere, from the rumen and faeces to
the udder. They can be controlled by proper sanitation and milking clean, dry
udders.
Prevention
It has long been known that the rate of new infections increases with the
number of bacteria at the teat end. Previous associations have been made between clean housing, clean cows and lower bulk tank somatic cell counts. An

30

index of environmental sanitation based on the amount of manure present on


the cow and in her environment was a predictor for the occurrence of coliform
mastitis in one study. A recent tail-docking study completed at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrated a significant increase in the prevalence of
environmental mastitis pathogens as poor udder hygiene scores increased.

Notes:

A good milking routine is essential for good udder health. See chapter XVII,
Milking.
Teat condition
The physical condition of cow teats is an indicator of the quality of the environment, milking management and milking system used. It can also be used as
an indicator for the risk of intra-mammary infections. Mastitis risk is a numbers game. Greater numbers of bacteria near the teat-end, increase the risk of
infections occurring. Teat sores and cracks provide sites where bacteria can
multiply. They can be painful to the cow, causing her to kick, defecate more
frequently during milking and decrease milk let-down. Healthy skin is easier to
keep clean.
A scoring system for teat-end condition
The teat evaluation procedure should be standardised always conducted
either before or after milking, by the same person, on the same group of cows.
Teat-end condition should be reevaluated after any changes (altering teat dip,
pre-milking procedure, liners, milking machine, pulsation or vacuum) are
made that may impact teat health. Cow teat condition provides important information about the herds udder health status.

31

Notes:

Teat score
N
N ring
The teat end is smooth with a small, even orifice.
This is a typical status for many teats soon after the start of lactation.

S
Smooth or slightly rough ring
A raised ring encircles the orifice. The surface of the ring is
smooth or it may feel slightly rough, but no fronds of old keratin
are evident.

R
Rough ring
A raised, roughened ring with isolated fronds or mounds of old
keratin extending one to three millimetres from the orifice.

VR
Very rough ring
A raised ring with rough fronds or mounds of old keratin extending four millimetres or more from the orifice. The rings rim is
rough and cracked, often giving the teat end a flowered appearance

Teat-end condition scores may reveal the quality of herd management, the correctness of the milking system
and milking process, the existence of unacceptable environmental conditions and existing infectious diseases.
Good herd management might aim to keep or reduce roughness scores of R or VR to below 20 percent of
teats scored.

Did you test?


Score your cows for teatend condition. What do the
results tell you about your
herds udder health?

32

Source (adapted from): Animal Sciences Group at Wageningen University, Lelystad.

Hygiene score
Keeping cows clean is an essential part of environmental mastitis control. This
applies to dry cows, heifers and lactating cows. The amount of dirt on cows indicates the degree of farm hygiene. The incidence of udder and skin infections
increases rapidly as the cows become dirtier. It is a group score, and a onepoint rise in it can increase bulk tanks somatic cell count by 50 000 millilitres.

Notes:

Hygiene score cows on a scale of one to five on the udder (fore and rear udders, udder floor and teats) and the lower rear legs (from hock to floor, including hoof). If there are cows scoring three to five on hygiene, please try to find
out why they are so dirty and make appropriate changes. Dirtiness may be
related to the health of the cow, nutrition, the space in which the cow is kept or
environmental issues such as bedding or manure scraping.
Hygiene score chart
Score 1:
target

Score 2:
acceptable

Score 3:
danger zone

Score 4:
too dirty

Score 5:
unacceptable

Source (adapted from): Chiappini et al. J.K Reneau, Univ. of Minnesota, in J Hulsen, Cow Signals.

Did you
calculate?
With longer rest periods
a cow can produce up to
1 kilogram more milk per
day. How long is your pay
back time on cow comfort
mattresses?

33

XI. Resting
Notes:

Normal resting positions

Long

Short

Wide

Narrow

Lying down duration and frequency


Under ideal conditions, cows lie down for approximately 14 hours per day.
During that time, they sleep for only 30 minutes. When the resting surface is
not sufficiently comfortable, cows will reduce their rest time. If cows are unable to lie down when needed, they will stand for too long and this will change
their natural behaviour cycle. Once cows are finally down, they will lie down
for too long. Cows will then eat and drink less, go to the feed area less frequently and consequently consume less dry matter. If cows consume fewer
meals during the day then the meals they do eat will tend to be larger and the
cows can get into a yo-yo type feed intake pattern.

Did you test?


Try the drop knee test.
Drop to your knees in the
stall to find out how comfortable the bedding is.

Did you test?


No more than 10 percent
of cows should be standing in the stalls at any one
time, midway between
milkings.

34

The lying periods of cattle fit in between the periods of feeding and standing.
A lying period typically lasts one-half to three hours, so a cow stands up and
lies down many times per day. During the long lying periods in the middle of
the day or during the night, the cow rises, stretches, and lies down again immediately usually on her other side. Cattle spend more than half their lives
lying down. A dairy cow lies down and rises around 16 times every day, which
means between 5 000 to 7 000 times in a year. Among other things, the lying
time and the number of lying periods depend on the age, heat cycle and the
state of health of the cow. The weather, quality of the bedding, type of housing
and the number of animals per square metre also influence the lying time and
the number of lying periods.
Cows need to lie down. Reduction in lying time reduces milk production.
Lying down is important because:
The cow rests and ruminates when it is lying down.
The cows hooves rest and dry off.
There is more space for other cows to walk around in a barn.
Blood circulation through the udder increases by up to 30 percent.

Lying down
Each time the cow lies down, she puts about two-thirds of her body weight
(depending on breed and lactation stage between 500 and 650 kilograms) on
her front knees. Her knees drop freely to the floor from a height of 20 to 30
centimetres. It is therefore very important to have good quality bedding so
the cow can painlessly lie down whenever she wants to. A very easy check is
to look at how fast a cow lies down in a cubicle. If she takes longer than five
minutes on average, you should check the cubicle and bedding for reasons why
she doesnt lie down immediately.

Notes:

How a cow lies down

Source (adapted from): Anon. Housing design for cattle, DACC.

Standing up
An important consideration is lunge space. A cow should lunge forward in
the stall when she stands up. If this is impossible, a cow should at least have
enough space to lunge to the side of the stall. If adequate lunge space is not
available, cows will have difficulty in rising and may eventually stop using the
stall.

Did you know?


The most milk produced
by one cow in one year
was 26 897 kilograms by
a Holstein cow named
Robthom Suzet Paddy.

35

Notes:

How a cow stands up

Source (adapted from): Anon. Housing design for cattle, DACC.

Space requirements
To rise or lie down, the resting area must provide cows with the freedom for
vertical, forward and lateral movement without obstruction, injury or fear. A
rising motion includes the freedom to lunge forward, bob the head up or down,
and stride forward. A resting motion also includes the freedom to lunge forward
and bob the head.

36

Cubicle design
There are many different stall designs, most of which will work well. It is very
important to observe the cows reactions to stalls. Dont just get out the tape
measure. Watch cows get up and down in the stalls. Cows should get up the
same way in a stall as they would outside on pasture. Cows need to bob their
heads down and forward so that they can shift their weight from their back legs
when they stand. In a stall, cows can either bob forward or to the side. It is difficult to give specific measurements for cubicles because of the size differences
between dairy breeds. It is normally recommended that cows have at least 47
centimetres of head space and 168 centimetres of space for their body. On top
of that, lunge space must be provided (at least 30 centimetres). Therefore, the
stall should be 245 centimetres long unless cows are able to lunge forward into
the space beyond the stall such as into an opposite cow stall, alley or outside
of the barn. If a stall is barely 215 centimetres in total length, it must allow the
cow to lunge sideways as she gets up. Bending the bottom of the stall loop out
of the cows way (either higher or lower) will allow cows to lunge sideways.

Install a brisket board on the stall floor. Brisket boards should be 168 centimetres from the stall curb and 15 to 20 centimetres high with a 60 degree angle.
They help keep the cow from crowding to the front of the stall, brace her as she
gets up and keep the stall cleaner.

Notes:

Bedding
There are several critical factors that must be considered when planning freestall surfaces. The surface must be durable and easily maintained. It must be
well drained and/or resilient to water. It should not be slippery and should give
secure footing to prevent potential injuries. The flooring should be soft and
comfortable rather than hard, cold and damp. The surface should be made of
inert material so pathogenic organisms will not grow. The cost of the surface
has to be considered relative to its potential for reducing or increasing animal
injuries.
There are various recommendations for tied-up and loose housing systems. The
main one is that the cow stands and lies down on the same flooring. For that
reason cow mat solutions for tied-up systems should provide soft bedding and
support solid standing.
Bedding materials
While cows used to spend time on pasture, todays cows spend more time in
barns. Bedding materials provide comfort for modern cows and come mainly
from two sources:
Organic bedding (straw, wood shaves, sawdust, paper and dry manure).
Inorganic bedding (sand, cement, rubber mattresses and litter conditioners).

37

Notes:

The most common bedding materials used all over the world are sand, straw,
sawdust and lime. Research2) shows that cows prefer sand when it comes to
lying down in the stalls, but mattresses are close behind. If switching over to
sand bedding, please bear in mind that all manure handling equipment needs
to be adjusted for sand. This is because sand and manure should be separated.
The main disadvantages of sand are cost and availability. Sand is more expensive than other materials and is not available in all regions.
Organic bedding materials provide carbon, which is food for bacteria. But
carbon by itself is not sufficient to support bacteria growth. Bacteria also need
warm temperatures (close to body temperature) and moisture (from leaking
milk, urine, manure or wet feet). If one of these conditions isnt available, bacterial growth will be limited. As we cant control either of these conditions, a
bedding treatment material can be used to inhibit bacterial growth.
Cow mattresses are a good bedding type for barns. Try to use adequate straw,
sawdust or hygienic bedding material. Doing so will keep the bedding clean
and dry, depress bacterial growth and keep the cows clean for easier milking.
Different bedding materials support the growth of different organisms.
Sawdust is the worst bedding for high numbers of Klebsiella, while straw produces high numbers of environmental Streptococci that can be transferred to
teat skin.
Comparison of mastitis organisms growing in three different types of bedding
Bacterial count

Sawdust

Shavings

Straw

Bedding1

Teat2

Bedding

Teat

Bedding

Teat

Total coliforms

5.2

127

6.6

12

3.1

Klebsiella

4.4

11

6.6

6.5

Streptococci

1.1

38

8.6

717

5.3

2064

1 Count g/used bedding (x106)


2 Count from teat swab
Source: Blowey, R. & P. Edmondson, Mastitis control in dairy herds.

Conclusion
Organic bedding materials contain significantly higher bacterial counts than
those in mineral materials. Using mineral bedding materials will decrease teat
end exposure to environmental mastitis pathogens. Using bedding additives to
increase the dryness of the bedding surrounding the udder will help limit bacterial growth and reduce bacteria concentrations at the teat end.
Bedding treatment
Bedding material must be kept as clean and dry as possible to limit bacterial
growth. Organic bedding material should be replaced daily to limit the growth
of bacteria in the stall and reduce the risk of udder infections from

38

environmental pathogens. Certain organic bedding materials (sunflower hulls,


straw, corn stalks, grain hulls or hard wood) support the growth of large populations of environmental mastitis pathogens. It is important to use large particulate material, as these materials do not support the growth of bacteria as
readily as fine particulate material.

Notes:

Research shows the importance of regularly renewing the bedding. When sawdust was added to cubicles on a weekly basis, coliform levels were very high.
Levels declined when bedding was replaced daily. To keep a healthy hygienic
environment for the cows, it is of the utmost importance to keep bedding as
dry as possible. Dry bedding means less bacteria growth and reduces the risk
of mastitis. Besides that, dryer bedding will result in fewer flies, slip resistance
and an odour free area.
The importance of regular renewal of cubicle bedding

E. coli numbers
(millions per gram of sawdust)

1000.0

100.0

10.0

1.0

0.1
0

12

16

20

24

28

32

Time (days)

The importance of regular renewal of cubicle bedding. E. coli numbers were high when fresh sawdust was
added weekly (A), fell rapidly when daily bedding was introduced (B), but soon deteriorated on return to
weekly bedding (C).
Source: Blowey, R. & P. Edmondson, ibid.

The traditional bedding materials mentioned above will all contribute to drier
bedding. An extra solution is to use bedding treatment products. These can be
used alone or in combination with your traditional bedding material. Bedding
treatment products are usually in powder or granular form to minimize dust
and contribute to a drier, healthier, more hygienic barn environment. They help
keep stall surfaces dry and bacteria levels low. These products can also be used
in wet areas such as the calving pen, waiting area, barn walkways and around
water troughs to absorb liquids and create a more slip-resistant surface. Cows
can then move around, walk and lie down more confidently.

39

Notes:

Stock density
Stock density influences the lying time of dairy cattle. Research shows that
overstocking reduces lying time. When the cows would normally be lying in
a cubicle, they are forced to stand outside the stall. Cows are more likely to
displace others from free-stalls at high stocking densities. Normally dominant
cows will displace the low rank cows, particularly heifers, so the low rank
cows will reduce their lying time even more than the high rank cows.
Ventilation in resting area
A cow which has inadequate fresh air will not lie down readily because she
can breathe better when she is standing. So, it is very important to make sure
there is good ventilation in front of the cow stalls. Air movement is important
to reduce barn humidity and heat. Condensation, cobwebs, the smell of ammonia, coughing cows and cows breathing with their mouths open are all signs of
poor ventilation.
Humidity in cubicles
Humidity in the cubicles provides good conditions for pathogenic bacteria to
develop. With good ventilation and frequent cleaning of the bedding, you can
have drier stalls with reduced moisture levels. This can help to depress bacterial growth. Humidity in your barn can be easily seen as moisture on the walls
or roof.
Fly control in resting area
Flies cause irritation and stress, creating a serious threat to the productivity
of the dairy cow. Studies show that a tormenting population of flies can cause
reductions in milk yield. Flies could also jeopardise your milk quality. The
various bacteria and viruses they carry might find their way not only to the
cows (leading to the spread of diseases), but also into the milk via clusters and
liners. Reducing the fly population means less stress and less disease.
Ruminating during resting
A cow has to ruminate for seven to ten hours a day. 50 percent of cows lying
down must be ruminating otherwise there is not enough effective fibre in the
ration.
Resting to prevent lameness
Increased time spent lying down in a clean dry comfortable stall will potentially mean less time spent in concrete alleyways and this leads to cleaner, drier
hooves. Cattle housed in wet, manure contaminated conditions are more likely
to suffer infectious diseases of the foot, such as interdigital necrobacillosis
(foot rot), heel horn erosion (HHE) and papillomatous digital dermatitis (heel
warts; PDD).

40

XII. Walking
Surfaces

Notes:

The quality of floors, in terms of shape, hardness, friction and hygiene is of


great importance for the health of cow feet and legs. Large groups that spend a
long time in a waiting area, more frequent milking, long feeding time and long
walking distances on concrete floors can be contributing factors for excessive
wear and overburdening of the hooves. A quick survey of hoof health in a herd
and detection of lameness can be made by observing whether cows backs are
arched during walking and/or standing. A cow arching her back when walking
or standing and showing lameness in her feet, is likely to have a severe foot
lesion. See chapter V on locomotion score.
An ideal floor must be hygienic, comfortable to walk on and have an even,
slip-resistant surface without being too abrasive. The floors must be simple to
construct, durable, easy to manage and maintain. Concrete has long been the
most common material for floors in confined animal systems, but a softer and
more resilient material like rubber might be a future alternative. The use of
modified mastic asphalt seemed very promising, but it is very heat sensitive to
apply. This has led to mastic asphalt releasing the stones (which are part of the
asphalt) too easily, which results in increasing lameness and hoof problems.
In the meantime, management solutions that facilitate cow traffic and reduce
excessive involuntary standing and walking on concrete floors must be encouraged.

Did you
calculate?

All walking surfaces should be slip-resistant. This reduces injuries and increases mobility to feed, water and resting areas. It also encourages oestrus activity.
If you notice cows walking very slowly or timidly with rear feet spread wide,
it could be a sign of poor traction.

On a skid-resistant surface
cows show better bulling.
Based on Euro 3 per extended calving day and an
80 cow dairy herd, you can
spend Euro 24 000 (10%
annual costs) to break even
if you increase the calving
interval by 10 days.

41

Notes:

All concrete should be grooved to make it less slippery. Before placing cows
on freshly poured and grooved concrete, be sure to smooth off rough or sharp
edges to prevent hoof injury. On-farm observations of new concrete disease,
when cows are introduced to a new concrete surface, suggest that newly
grooved concrete can cause hoof problems. Instances of lameness, related to
acidosis and poor feeding management, are often exacerbated when cows are
moved from dirt to concrete or from old concrete to newly poured and grooved
concrete. Invariably, productivity of the herd suffers under these conditions.
To prevent hoof problems related to new concrete, reduce the abrasiveness of
new concrete. Beginning several weeks prior to introducing the cows into the
facility, drag a 900 kilogram block of concrete with a tractor over the new and
grooved alleys, lanes and holding pens. Some farmers have used street cleaners to remove particles and dust sanded off during this process. This or similar
approaches effectively sand off rough edges without reducing the effectiveness
of the grooving. An excellent point to consider is that if the floor is uncomfortable for people to walk on in bare feet, the same is probably true for the cow as
well.
When allowed a choice, cows often prefer to stand on a rubber surface rather
than concrete. Consider installing rubber mats to improve the daily routine of
eating, drinking, walking and resting. In barns with worn out concrete, consider installing rubber coverage to prevent hoof problems. Besides the barn,
the waiting area and parlour are very common places to put rubber coverage as
the cows will be standing there for a while and impacting their hooves. Recent
on-farm experience has indicated the usefulness of using dry cows or heifers to
condition a new facility prior to introducing the lactating herd. By having these
animals in the facility a week or so before the milking herd, it gives the new
barn a cow smell and puts some manure in the alleys. This technique recognizes the importance of accommodating normal cow behaviour and facilitating
cow comfort to reduce stress when designing the cows environment.

Did you know?


It is possible to lead a
cow upstairs but not
downstairs, because a
cows knees cant bend
as needed to walk back
down.

42

Wetness
To reduce the chance of hoof injuries, dairy cows should be kept in conditions
that allow their hooves to stay dry as much as possible. Pieces of claw horn
and whole digits from hooves of dairy cows absorb water rapidly when soaked
in water, and much of the water is absorbed during the first hour of soaking.
As water is absorbed, the hooves become progressively softer. In comparison
with water absorption rate, water loss tends to be slower when the hooves are
allowed to dry out. Regions of the hooves differ in hardness. Hoof walls are
the hardest, the sole is softest. However, all parts of the hoof absorb water and
become softer. When cows are forced to stand on damp surfaces, their hooves
will rapidly become softer, which increases the chances of hoof injury and
lameness.

Way of walking
A healthy cow walking on pasture places the rear foot into the position vacated
by the front foot on the same side. On slippery floors or in dark conditions that
alter a cows confidence, she places her rear foot outside the track of the front
foot while altering the stride, step length and walking speed. This altered walking behaviour provides greater stability but places greater stress on the outside
claw.

Notes:

Choices of flooring and lighting influence walking behaviour, foot health and
cow movement. Foot placement, length of stride, step and walking speed provide indicators of cow health and the quality of the environment. Cows walking slowly with small steps but not showing lameness are often a sign of poor
quality walkways.

Observation of walking patterns provides an opportunity to assess floors for


traction and flatness of the surface for the hoof to rest upon. Birdbaths in
concrete floors are health risks that pool wastes, contaminate feet and tails and
allow splashing onto beds, teats or legs.
A good alley has a non-slippery, preferably soft surface for cows to walk on. It
also needs to be as dry, clean and have sufficient light for a cow to see where
she walks. On top of that, there should be enough space for one cow to pass by
another cow, even if this one is eating and therefore likely to be standing in a
90 degree angle to the walking direction.

43

Notes:

Barn planning crossovers


Crossovers or escape alleys should be established on each end of a cubicle
section. If the cubicle row consists of more than 20 cubicles, the farmer must
establish additional crossovers to achieve a free cow circulation.
(See Barn planning, chapter XVIII, for measurement guidelines).
Fertility influence of floor surface
The quality of the floors has a big influence on the visibility of heat detection
signs. With a non-slippery surface, cows are much more likely to exhibit the
activity signs of oestrus.
Floor hygiene
The hygiene of barn floors has considerable impact on animal health. Problem floors impact the hoof, the udder and milk quality. The design of floors
is therefore very important for long-term, consistently profitable, milk production. The floor is the part of the barn with which the animals are in closest
contact.

Manure produces an unfavourable environment for hooves by macerating


digital skin and horn tissue. It also provides a growth medium for contagious
agents.

44

Solid and slatted floors


Slatted floors normally stay cleaner than solid floors. However poor drainage
of slatted floors can occur when cow traffic is too low or when there is too
much litter or food on the floor. Scrapers on top of the slatted floor improve
hygiene. The cleanliness of solid floors can be improved by sloping with
frequent scraping or flushing. The slope should have a maximum incline of
1.5 degrees, positioned towards the middle part of the alley and longitudinally
towards the dung channel. The liquids can drain easily from sloped floors
which results in drier surfaces. A disadvantage is that manure will be spread
over this dry surface by the manure scraper. This is why some farmers prefer a
non-sloped surface in combination with a scraper system. Solid floors have the
advantage of being more natural and comfortable for cows to walk on.

Notes:

Tied-up stalls
In a Swedish study, the prevalence and severity of heel horn erosions associated with interdigital dermatitis, were significantly higher in stalls where cows
were wrongly positioned. The moisture content of the sole horn was positively
correlated to the severity of heel horn erosions. This agrees with an American
study which reported a high association of stall moisture with lameness. To
position the cows better, rubber-coated slatted flooring in the rear part of the
stall was developed and studied. The incidence of heel horn erosion was significantly lower in cows on the rubber-slatted floor than in the matched control
animals, which were on solid floors with rubber mats. Epidemiological studies
from France and California reveal that the most significant risk factor for heel
horn erosion and papillomatous digital dermatitis respectively, is unhygienic
conditions. It is thus clearly documented that a more or less permanently manure contaminated environment predisposes for infectious foot diseases.

Treatment and maintenance


Hoof trimming
Hoof trimming has two main aims:
Promoting optimal conditions for hoof conformation and locomotion
Detecting and treating hoof disorders before more serious problems develop
and cause lameness
Frequently the hoof trimmer or veterinarian is called to treat cows only when
an acute need for trimming has been detected. By then, many cows will have
already decreased production and suffered needlessly. In one research project,
half the cows in each of the herds being studied were randomly selected to
have hooves trimmed an extra time, four months before the yearly scheduled
trimming. When hoof disorders were compared at the spring trimming, the
animals with just one trimming had 67 percent more lameness and 57 percent
more sole ulcers than those trimmed twice. Acute treatments between trimmings were very rare in the group trimmed twice and sole ulcers detected at
the extra trimming had a high recovery rate of 80 percent. The extra trimming
did not have a significant preventative effect on infectious diseases.

45

Notes:

Functional trimming is recommended but the quality of hoof trimming should


be better followed up. Hoof shape and cow posture both change in an attempt
to compensate for physiological and environmental challenges. Harsh surfaces
disturb the balance between outer and inner digits of the rear feet, resulting
in an asymmetry between them which can lead to hoof injuries and lameness.
Correct foot trimming and a soft foundation can equalise the weight distribution between the hooves and restore the sole concavity by putting more weight
on the hoof wall.

Hoof trimming twice a year is recommended. Keeping cows on rubber coverage does not change the interval for trimming, as the hooves still grow. They
need preventive trimming twice a year. The best time for hoof trimming is at
the start of the dry period, so the cow can start the new lactation without lameness problems.

Did you test?


Note individual information for each cow during
hoof trimming and use it
next time cow hooves are
trimmed.

Foot baths or foot spraying


Most modern dairy management systems are compromises, so some measures
are needed to prevent health problems. Foot baths have long been used and
are recommended in animal welfare regulations. However, there are different
methods and techniques in their management and few studies 3) on what is optimal. Foot baths can be either true baths or semi-permeable foam mats. Foot
spraying has become an alternative for traditional foot baths. The aim is to use
hoof health products in an efficient manner to clean hooves and prevent hoof
diseases.
Very few studies have been made to clarify the advantages for different solutions. Dutch studies 4) during the eighties showed formalin diluted to four
percent to be efficient for infectious dermatitis, but it is hazardous and is now
forbidden in many states and countries. Formalin is also painful if the animal
has an open wound. Copper-based solutions are probably the most commonly

46

used bath solutions in the dairy industry worldwide, although environmental


issues may lead to restrictions. Copper sulphate is already forbidden in many
countries because it is hazardous for people, animals and the environment.
However there are some good solutions on the market now which are less
hazardous and work well. A recent study showed a significant positive effect
on healing dermatitis when a copper-based solution was used. A foot bath with
an appropriate solution is a very easy preventive way to decrease lameness in
your herd.

Notes:

Waste management manure


It is recommended to promptly remove manure from all types of floors to keep
the feet, bedding and walkways as clean and dry as possible. Different manure
scraper systems are commonly used to remove manure. They can be timer
controlled and operate automatically.

47

XIII. Drinking
Notes:

Did you test?


Check which water supply
is most popular, used
most frequently. Why?

Milk comprises almost 90 percent water, so its not surprising that a cows
water intake has a major effect on her milk production. When you provide a
proper fresh water supply, cows drink more, eat more and produce more milk.
It sounds simple, but the amounts of water involved are significant. One kilogram of dry matter intake utilises up to five litres of water. Cows need at least
three litres of water to produce one litre of milk. This means that high-yielding
cows need more than 150 litres of fresh water every day! And depending on
hot and dry climates, this amount can even be higher.
Cows like to drink fast up to 20 litres of water per minute. If they cant, their
water intake may fall and their milk yield will suffer. A 40 percent reduction
in water intake can cut milk production by 25 percent. It is essential that you
meet all your cows drinking needs. Cows like to drink when they eat and just
after milking. They prefer a large, calm drinking surface from which they can
drink quickly and without stress. Such natural drinking behaviour promotes
further eating, even more drinking and thus greater milk yields.

Did you
calculate?
If water is so vital to milk
production, how should
costs be balanced between
feeding equipment and
your water supply system?

48

Space
Three to four metres is needed around the water trough to reduce pushing and
shoving. This is important for submissive cows to be able to drink without being afraid of being pushed away from the water supply by dominant cows.
Temperature
There are different opinions about the best drinking temperature of water for
the highest milk yield. Most researchers say that the optimal temperature for
drinking water for cows is between 15C and 17C. At this temperature the
cows will maximise water intake.

Cleanliness
Dont forget that the simple act of cleaning water tanks at least once a week
can have an impact on milk production. Cows like to drink clean, fresh water.
They are even more sensitive than people to poor quality water. As you walk
by a water tank, ask yourself if you would drink that water. If the answer is
no then the water needs to be cleaned.

Notes:

Quality
Water quality can be compromised by high levels of bacteria, chemicals,
organic matter and minerals. Unfortunately, sometimes what may be said to
be a tolerable level of contamination still hurts the cow, since cows are very
sensitive to water quality problems. If you are not sure about the quality of
the water, take some samples for analysis. Take these water samples from the
cows water tank or water bowl; not back at the well. Proper sample handling
is essential. Use containers supplied by the water-testing lab. Samples to be
analysed for bacteria should be kept cool (on ice) and delivered to the lab
within six hours.
It is recommended that water be analysed at least once per year regardless of
perceived problems. Maintain good records of water analysis from year to year
so that you can prove when contamination occurred, if necessary.

49

Notes:

Water supply and source


Water troughs instead of water bowls are recommended for use in loose housing systems. There must always be two water troughs per group of animals,
so even low-ranking cows have good opportunities for drinking. Each water
trough should be able to hold 200 to 300 litres of water and the water flow
should supply at least 10 litres per minute. The water trough volume can be
reduced to about 100 litres if the water flows at 20 litres per minute.
On the basis of farm studies5), the length of water troughs should be five centimetres per cow with an optimal height of 60 to 90 centimetres. Reducing the
height by five to eight centimetres may be logical for Jersey cows. Water depth
should be a minimum of eight centimetres to allow the animal to submerge its
muzzle two-and-a-half to five centimetres. Provide at least one water trough
for every 15 to 20 cows, or a minimum of 60 centimetres of tank space per
20 cows. At least two sources of water are needed in the resting area for each
group of cows. For a tied-up system it is very clear that the optimal situation is
that each cow has its own water bowl.
Positioning and barn planning
Lactating cows should be close to a water supply, especially during periods
of heat stress or bitter cold and frozen surfaces. Under these conditions, try to
place a clean supply of water near shaded or otherwise cooled resting areas
and on safe slopes if frozen. Take care to avoid excessive water accumulation
in lots or other resting areas, as that may increase the incidence of mastitis and
other diseases in the herd. Cows tend to drink most of their daily water close
to milking time, often straight after milking, so it would be beneficial to have
water available in the feeding area as well as the return lane from the parlour,
or next to the exit from a robotic milking system. Many farmers have installed
extra water troughs near the parlour exit or they have put water in the parlour.
To avoid the risk of manure pollution, make sure that water bowls are not
installed too low.
Natural behaviour
Like people, cows prefer to eat, then drink, eat, then drink and so on. Water
troughs need to be easily accessible, within 15 metres from the feeding table.
Ranking
Research6) shows that submissive cows use a water bowl less frequently than
their more aggressive partner using the same water bowl. These cows consume
less water and feed, and produce milk with less milk fat. Social interactions
such as this may be important for producers who house their cattle in stanchion
or tied-up barns where pairs of cattle share a common water bowl. Sometimes,
simply moving cattle from one stall to another can eliminate the problem.

50

XIV. Feeding
The genetic potential of todays dairy cows is very high and still increasing.
Thats why feed and feeding strategies are becoming more and more important. It is well known that the amount of milk produced is highly influenced by
the amount and quality of the feed given to the cow.

Notes:

It is also possible to influence milk composition through feeding. As the cow


normally experiences a shortage of nutrients in early lactation, it is important
to feed the cow a well balanced diet and maximise the dry matter intake. An
unbalanced diet increases the risk of metabolic disturbances and weight loss,
which have a negative effect on milk yield. Healthy, adequately fed cows will
also make the transition from dry period to peak more easily.

The cow is a ruminant with four stomachs, the largest of which is the rumen.
Together with the reticulum, it has a total volume of approximately 150 to 200
litres. In this digestive system there are billions of micro-organisms. They help
the cow to digest and utilise nutrients in the feed. To achieve good feed utilisation, and a high milk yield, the micro-organisms have to have optimal conditions. Feeding a cow involves feeding the bacteria in her rumen. Feeding more
times a day will keep the cows active. They will be pushed to eat, drink some
water, and then rest in the cubicle.
Space
The first thing to look at is the amount of available space at the feeding table.
There should be about 60 to 76 centimetres of space per cow (at least 85 centimetres in hot climates) and enough room for all the cows to come and eat at
the same time. There are two main reasons for this: the most obvious reason
is that cows generally like to eat all at the same time, the second reason is that
most first calf heifers have different feeding habits than mature cows. Only in

Did you know?


In the rumen there are
200 billion bacteria helping the cow to digest her
feed.

51

Notes:

systems where the food is permanently available and the cows have a different
rhythm (like an automatic milking system) is it possible to have less space than
cows at the fence. First-calf heifers will tend to eat less at a feeding, but visit
the feeding table for more frequent meals. So if space at the feeding table is
limited, then the first calf heifers will be the ones who lose out.
Ventilation
Providing fresh air in the feeding area is very important. During hot weather
(above 20C), fans near the feed bunk will help to decrease heat stress and
keep the cows eating. Once the temperature goes above 25C cows will reduce
feed intake. Providing fresh air gives the cow the opportunity to breathe
easily and helps to keep the cow cooler. It also helps to keep flies away from
the feeding area.

Did you know?


A cows intestines can be
up to 52 metres long.

52

Positioning and barn planning


Comfort at the feeding table is another very important aspect of feed management because comfortable cows will go to the feed area more often. All feed
areas should be shaded, to protect cows from the sun, rain or snow and to increase the bunk life of your fodder. During hot weather when dry matter intake
often decreases, fans near feed areas will reduce heat stress and help maintain
intake. One last thing you can do to improve cow comfort at the feeding table,
is to place a rubber mat in the standing area by the feed bunk. This will provide a cushion for their feet and legs and allow cows to stand comfortably for
longer periods of time.

Natural feeding position


Cows were designed to graze forage. For this reason, many experts recommend that cows eat in a body position similar to that when eating pasture grass.
Cows eating with their heads down produce more saliva, which increases their
ability to buffer the rumen from excess acidity. The feed bunk should be 10
to 15 centimetres higher than the floor where the cows are standing. Cows
shouldnt have to get down on their knees to eat, nor should they have to step
up to get to the feed bunk. Cows should not be rubbing their necks on a rail
while eating, so the feed fence should be high enough to allow sufficient space
to eat. An option is to lean the feed fence 10 degrees towards the feed bunk,
as that takes the pressure off the cows chest while eating. This is a very easy
and comfort increasing solution, if the feed fence is not meeting todays height
standards.

Notes:

Frequency of eating and fresh feedstuff


Researchers at Michigan State University found that cows housed in tied-up
barns ate about 11 meals per day. Those cows that ate more total dry matter
didnt have more meals per day. Their meals were just larger. The best cows on
their study ate 2.3 kilograms per meal and the worst cows on the study ate 1.7
kilograms per meal. The cows that ate more also ate faster. The average eating
time was 27 minutes per meal. Five hours per day were spent eating.
The feeding behaviour of first-calf heifers is different from that of mature
cows. Heifers prefer more visits to the bunk while consuming smaller meals,
than their older counterparts.
To be certain you are feeding the proper amount at the bunk, be sure that there
is always some of the feed left in the bunk, (the optimal amount is three to four
percent), after each feeding period. Usually some forage material is less palatable, spoiled or of a poorer quality than the rest and this is what the cows will

53

Notes:

sort out and leave behind. This feed is of lower digestibility. It will reduce the
cows feed intake and ultimately lead to less milk production. If at any time
the cows are being forced to eat feed left in the bunk, they are being underfed.
The best way to assess this is to check the feed bunks one hour before the next
scheduled feeding. There should be a thin layer of feed remaining and it should
look similar to the total mixed ration or feed being fed not just long stems or
cobs because this would be another indication that your cows would eat more
if it were available.
Feeding strategies
Flat rate feeding is a feeding strategy where all cows are fed the same level of
concentrates during the whole or part of the lactation period. The concentrates
are restricted to a certain level while roughage is fed as often as the cows want it.
The cows energy and nutrient demands vary depending on the stage of the
lactation. Because of the fixed concentrates ratio, flat rate feeding relies on
fat mobilisation. The surplus of nutrients in mid-and late-lactation is stored
as body fat. The cow uses the surplus when demand is high, namely in early
lactation. Fat mobilisation in early lactation can cause ketosis in high yielding
cows. With flat rate feeding cows are usually underfed during early lactation
and overfed during late lactation. Flat rate feeding is common in countries with
extensive milk production and large areas of pasture such as New Zealand,
Argentina, Ireland and Australia.
Challenge feeding/feeding to yield
While flat rate relies on fat mobilisation, challenge feeding/feeding to yield
aims to supply the cow with the nutrients that are needed for the actual lactation stage. Challenge feeding/feeding to yield is common in countries with
intensive milk production. The advantages are that cows can be kept in proper
body condition and each cow is given a fair chance to show her production potential. The incentives for this are considerable. Every extra litre in peak lactation can result in a higher total yield of up to 200 litres of milk per lactation.
Ranking
In situations where competition is expected (e.g. with limited space and food),
feeding behaviour is related to cow productivity. Competition at the feeding
table is highest when cows return from milking and when fresh food is offered.
At these times, dominant cows will demand priority in feeding. Cows that are
less dominant may be limited in their access to the feeding table at these times,
forcing them to eat less or to eat at times when there is less competition at the
feeding table.
Rumen check
The rumen check (also called hunger groove) is a way of checking food intake
and the speed at which it is moving in an individual cow. Stand behind the
cow to look at the cows left flank, to assess the rumen fill. The fill indicates

54

the feed intake, the fermentation speed and the rate at which the feed is passing through the cows digestive system. The fermentation and passage speed
depends on the content and properties of the feed. The latter includes fast or
slowly fermentable feed, the particle size and the balance between the different
feed components in the rumen.

Notes:

Rumen scores
Score 1
A deep dip in the left flank. The skin under the lumbar vertebrae
curves inwards. The skin fold from the hook bone goes vertically
downwards. The paralumbar fossa behind the last rib is more than
one hand-width deep. Viewed from the side, this part of the flank has
a rectangular appearance. The cow has eaten little or nothing, which
could be due to sudden illness, insufficient or unpalatable food.

Score 2
The skin under the lumbar vertebrae curves inwards. The skin fold
from the hook bone runs diagonally forward towards the last rib.
The paralumbar fossa behind the last rib is one hand-width deep.
Viewed from the side, this part of the flank has a triangular appearance. This score is often seen in cows in the first week after calving.
Later in lactation, this is a sign of insufficient food intake, or a rate
of passage that is too high.

Score 3
The skin under the lumbar vertebrae goes vertically down for one
hand-width and then curves outward. The skin fold from the hook
bone is not visible. The paralumbar fossa behind the last rib is still
just visible. This is the right score for milking cows who have a
good food intake and when the food is in the rumen for the correct
amount of time.

Score 4
The skin under the lumbar vertebrae curves outwards. No paralumbar fossa is visible behind the last rib. This is the correct score for
cows nearing the end of lactation, and for dry cows.

Score 5
The lumbar vertebrae are not visible as the rumen is very well
filled. The skin over the whole belly is quite tight. There is no visible
transition between the flank and ribs. This is the correct score for
dry cows.

Did you test?


Check how full the rumen
is, and check it on the dry
cows too.

Source: D. Zaaijer, W.D.J.Kremer, J.P.T.M. Noordhuizen (2001), in J. Hulsen, Cow Signals.

55

Notes:

Eating surfaces
Cows prefer eating from ground level to eating from elevated bunks. The condition of the feeding surface can also affect dry matter intake. Feed bunks must
have smooth surfaces. Surfaces without grooves or holes that can trap feed are
easier to clean and help to minimize build up of waste feed, mould growth and
odour. Avoiding muddy conditions and manure build-up on feed bunk aprons
is also important. These conditions can decrease the palatability of the ration
and increase the transmission of disease.

Manure scoring

Manure scoring is a tool to help evaluate how well cow feed is being digested,
whether the ration has a correct balance of nutrients (protein, fibre and carbohydrates) and if water intake is appropriate.

Did you test?


Do the manure score.

56

Notes:

Scoring of manure consistency


Score One
This manure is very liquid with the consistency of pea soup. The
manure may actually arc from the rump of the cow. Excess protein
or starch, too much mineral, or lack of fibre, can lead to this score.
Excess urea in the hind gut can create an osmotic gradient drawing
water into the manure. Cow with diarrhoea will be in this category.

Score Two
Manure appears runny and does not form a distinct pile. It will
measure less than 2.5 cm in height and splatters when it hits the
ground or concrete. Cows on lush pasture will commonly have this
type of manure. Low fibre or a lack of functional fibre can also lead
to this manure score.

Score Three
This is the optimal score! The manure has a porridge-like appearance, will stack up 4 to 5 cm, have several concentric rings, a small
depression or dimple in the middle, make a plopping sound when it
hits concrete floors, and it will stick to the toe of your shoe.

Score Four
The manure is thicker, will stick to your shoe, and stacks up over 5
cm. Dry cows and older heifers may have this type of manure (this
may reflect feeding with low quality forages and/or a shortage of
protein). Adding more grain or protein can lower this manure score.

Score Five
This manure appears as firm faecal balls. Feeding a straw based
diet or dehydration would contribute to this score. Cows with a
digestive blockage may exhibit this score.

Source: D.Zaaijer, W.D.J. Kremer and J.P.T.M Noorhuizen.

Scoring of digestion (feeling by hand)


Score One. Manure feels as a creamy emulsion and is homogeneous. There are
no visible undigested food particles.
Score Two. Manure feels like a creamy emulsion and is homogeneous. A few
undigested food particles are visible.
Score Three. Manure doesnt feel homogeneous. Some undigested particles
are visible. After squeezing in the hand, some undigested fibres will stick to
your fingers.

57

Notes:

Score Four. Bigger undigested food particles are clearly visible. A ball of undigested food will remain after squeezing the dung in your hand.
Score Five. Bigger food particles are tangible in manure. Undigested components of the feed ration are clearly recognizable.

58

XV. Ventilation
Barn planning

Notes:

Ventilation of any dairy housing structure, whether it is a newborn calf shelter


or a lactating cow shelter, is of paramount importance. Emphasis is placed on
fresh air. Dairy cows need a constant source of fresh, clean air to achieve their
production potential. High moisture levels, manure gases, pathogens and dust
concentrations present in unventilated or poorly ventilated structures create an
adverse environment for animals. Stale air also adversely affects milk production and milk quality.
The dairys ventilation system should prevent high humidity in winter and heat
build-up in summer. Free-stall fronts and partitions should be open enough
to allow air movement across the cow. Look for excessive condensation and
moisture damage, especially on the roof. Cobwebs are often a sign of inadequate air flow. Other signs of poor ventilation include air that smells of ammonia, excessive coughing, nasal discharge or open-mouthed breathing by the
cows. If you run your fingers through the cows hair coat, it should be free of
moisture in a properly ventilated building.
Proper ventilation consists of exchanging barn air with fresh outside air uniformly throughout the structure. The required rate of air exchange depends on
a number of variables, including the conditions of the outside air (temperature
and moisture level), animal population and density. A properly designed and
managed system results in shelter air that is nearly equal in quality to the outside air on a year round basis. The shelter airs concentrations of manure gases,
dust and pathogens should be low and the relative humidity should be about
the same level as that of the outside air. Fans hanging over stalls or alleys do
not provide air exchange and are not a substitute for a well designed and managed ventilation system.
Heat stress
The effects of heat stress on dairy cattle physiology and productivity have
been well established. First signs of heat stress can already be seen at 20C,
with cows sweating and breathing fast. Milk yield can decrease by about 10
percent. Studies7) have shown that heat stress during late gestation reduces calf
birth weight and subsequent milk production. Dry cows provided with shade
gave birth to heavier calves and produced more milk than cows not provided
with shade. Biological response to other forms of stress such as crowding, poor
ventilation, poor footing and poor stall design have not been well established
for dairy cows.
Management
How do you control the air exchange to limit the temperature to within five
degrees of the air outside? This depends on the type of ventilation system you
have. With natural ventilation, make sure the eaves are open enough. In very
cold weather, the eaves should be open about five centimetres. As the outside
air temperature rises, open them more. If the wind is blowing, you can close

Did you know?


A cow can detect odours
from up to five miles away.

Did you test?


Take a piece of hay in a
steel bucket, light it and
check ventilation. Smoke
should not descend on to
cows. Check your young
stock barn too.

59

Notes:

the eaves more than on calm days. You also should make sure the ridge is
opened adequately. For a cold, naturally ventilated barn, the ridge should be
opened five centimetres for each three metres of building width and the eave
openings sized for half that on each side. For a barn 30 metres wide, the ridge
should be open 50 centimetres and the eaves should be open 25 centimetres on
each side. Natural ventilation works best when the roof slope rises 10 centimetres on a 30 centimetre run. With a mechanical ventilation system, a fan should
run continuously to maintain air quality. Thermostats should control the other
fans. Set the thermostats so they maintain the air temperature as low as possible, while still keeping animals comfortable. Adjust the air inlets in proportion
to the rate of ventilation provided by the fans. The inlet system should direct
air away from the animals to avoid drafts in winter.
Humidity
Stages of cow heat stress in relation to
temperature and relative humidity.
Percentage of relative humidity

Temp (C)

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

25

or
mf

le
tab

co

ild

30

35

40

ss

re

st

ss

re

st

re

ss

re

st

ve
se

45

at

le
ib

de

s
os

p
49

Source (adapted from): Dunham, D. et al, Coping with


summer weather.

60

XVI. Light
Productivity
Light is an important environmental characteristic in dairy facilities. Proper
lighting can improve cow performance and provide a safer and more pleasant
work environment. Dairy cows that are given 16 hours of light continuously
each day (16L) will increase milk production from five to 16 percent (eight
percent being typical) with feed intake up six percent and they will maintain
reproductive performance, when compared to cows receiving 13.5 hours of
light or less. This cow response to 16L is not immediate. A response can take
two to four weeks or longer to develop, as long as nutrition and other management conditions are acceptable.

Notes:

Summary of increased photoperiod on milk yield in lactating


cows

50

Milk (kg/d)

40

30

20

Pe
te

rs

Pe et
ar
al
ce ter
.,
s
19
k
et
78
&
St
a
l.,
an Sw
a
1
is
ns
9
ie
on 81
w
sk
,
19
B
ie
84
Ph ilo
de t al
ili
au ., 1
ps
9
e
&
al 85
Ev Sc
.,
h
1
an
ofi
98
s
9
& eld
,
H
ac 19
89
k
D
ah er,
19
le
89
ta
Po Mill
er l., 1
rt
er
99
et
7
&
a
Lu l.,
hm 199
9
an
,2
00
2

10

Summary of 10 studies examining the effect of increased


photoperiod on milk yield in lactating cows. Solid bars indicate the
average daily milk yield (kg/d) of cows on natural photoperiod (range
of 8 to 13.5 hr light/d; control), open bars indicate milk yield (kg/d)
of cows exposed to extended photoperiod of 16 to 18 hr of light/d.
Source: Dahl, G.E. & D. Petitclerc: Management of photoperiod in
the dairy herd for improved production and health.

61

Notes:

The best lighting system provides the required amount and quality of light at
the least cost. Fluorescent or metal halide lamps that have a colour rendition
index of 80 or more are recommended for use in the office and milk room. In
stanchion or tied-up barns with relatively low mounting heights, fluorescent
lamps are the most practical. The total installation and operating costs of the
system must be considered when selecting a fixture type and lamp size. Make
sure that all new fixtures and wiring conform to the special requirements of
the electrical wiring regulations for livestock buildings and have all new work
inspected.
The pineal gland in most mammals is controlled by the amount of light seen
through the eyes each day. This includes both the intensity of light (amount)
and the length of light exposure (duration). When activated by light, there is
a light signal sent from the eyes to the hypothalamus and from there to the
pineal gland (activating pineal secretion). This pineal secretion includes the
substance melatonin. Increased amounts of light exposure actually decrease the
amount of melatonin synthesis and release from the pineal gland. In all species
studied, melatonin has been found to reach peak concentrations in darkness
in cerebral spinal fluid, blood and urine.
Melatonin
Why is melatonin important? Melatonin operates on the brain and has been
shown to produce drowsiness in people. Feel a little tired and run down during
the short days of winter? Again, higher levels of melatonin produced naturally by your system cause this effect. In seasonal animals (sheep, deer, etc.)
these levels of melatonin actually shut down the reproductive function for the
season. In an animal like the lactating dairy cow, short days (less light: more
melatonin) do not shut down reproductive function, but they do have a negative effect on appetite and production levels.

Did you test?


Do you clean the lamps
in the barn every three
months?

62

XVII. Milking
Frequency

Notes:

Milking twice a day in a milking parlour has long been the common practice
in most countries. More frequent milking results in higher milk production if
adequate nutrition is provided, but the general economic benefit is dependent
on labour costs, milk prices, milk quota and other factors.
For cow comfort, the most ideal way of milking is by a robotic milking system. The cows can choose their own time for being milked and keep to their
own daily rhythm. Cows milked automatically are often milked between twoand-a-half and three times per day, but that varies from two to four times per
day depending on the lactation period of the cow.
Changing from milking twice a day to milking three times a day has a marked
increase on milk production. In addition lactation becomes more persistent and
prolonged. The reason why milk production increases with a more frequent
milking could be more frequent exposure of hormones stimulating milk secretion to the mammary gland. However, milk contains an inhibitor with negative
feedback control on milk secretion. A more frequent removal of this inhibitor
therefore results in higher production. An interesting finding in this respect
is that cows with a small udder cistern are more sensitive to the frequency of
milking. The smaller the cistern the greater the effect of frequent milk removal
on milk production, while with larger cisterns there is less response to frequent
milking.
Parlour stress
When a cow is not standing comfortably in the milking parlour, she will be
stressed. Stress factors in the milking parlour include flies, slippery floors, bad
ventilation, small stands and a restless milker. Cow reactions to parlour stress
include not entering the parlour voluntarily, kicking off the milking cluster,
defecating in the parlour or refusing milk let-down. Clearly it is very important
for the farmer and the cow to be less stressed during milking. Good milking
starts with good equipment and a consistent milking routine within a well ventilated, comfortable and safe parlour.
Production
To illustrate an individual cows milk production, we normally plot the yields
against time to get the lactation curve. Milk yield will rise during the first
months after calving, followed by a long period of continuous decline. The
shape of the lactation curve will differ from individual to individual and from
breed to breed. Feeding and management will also influence the shape and
have a significant impact on the total amount of milk produced. Lactation is
ideally 305 days, but in practice it is usually more, followed by a two-month
dry period prior to the next calving. A cows milk yield is influenced by many
factors, which are described in more detail in the booklet entitled, DeLaval
Efficient Milking.

Did you know?


The highest lifetime production of milk for a single
cow is 211 022 kilograms.

63

Notes:

A dairy cows lactation curve

Kilogram per day

50
Peak yield

45
40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
0

12

16

20

24

28

32

36

40

44

48

52

Weeks
after
calving

Source: DeLaval 2001; Efficient Dairy Herd Management.

Peak yield
Peak yield is the point where the cow reaches the highest milk production level
during the entire lactation. Heifers peak at 70 to 75 percent of mature cows
and second lactation cows peak at 90 percent of mature cows. Normally the
peak is reached four to ten weeks after calving. The time it takes to reach peak
yield varies with many factors, for example breed, nutrition and yield potential.
Higher producing animals tend to peak later than low producing ones. A high
peak yield normally means a higher total yield. Research shows that each one
kilogram increase in peak yield usually means an additional 100 to 200 kilograms of milk produced during the actual lactation. Reaching high peak yields
requires a very well managed and balanced feeding programme.
Feeding during milking
When creating a good milking routine, it sometimes helps to start using routines which will create positive emotions for the cow. During the 1970s,
scientists demonstrated that feeding during milking resulted in more efficient
udder emptying, a higher peak flow and a tendency towards increased production. The observation resulted in a recommendation to feed concentrates in the
parlour in some countries.
But what was the mechanism behind this observation and is it worthwhile to
continue feeding concentrate in the parlour? Interestingly, it was found that
feeding during milking both prolonged and increased the milking related release of the hormone oxytocin. From a production point of view it was further
indicated that milking and feeding simultaneously increased milk flow, decreased milking time and showed a tendency to increase milk production.

64

Cow moving and parlour traffic


When planning a new milking facility, a great deal of consideration should
be given to the site of the building and to cow traffic routes. It is self evident
that simple, easy, open routing will speed up cow flow. It will also reduce the
risk of milkers upsetting the cows in the period before milking. It should be
remembered that adrenaline release in the cow interrupts the oxytocin-based
milk let-down response.

Notes:

Twelve golden rules


There are many factors that affect milk quality. With good milking routines
and adequate milking equipment, the risk of new mastitis cases will be significantly lowered.
Before milking
1. Monitor udder health regularly
Review regularly all udder health and milk quality information provided by the
dairy plant, official testing organisations, veterinary clinics and on farm testing
using the DeLaval cell counter (DCC) or the California Mastitis Test (CMT).
Develop benchmarks for each cow and herd to assist in monitoring changes
that may occur.

2. Milking order
Regardless of housing system or herd size, milk first-calf heifers, fresh cows
next and then the main herd.
Milk sick cows last and then wash and sanitize the milking system.

3. Foremilk cows
Remove two to three squirts of foremilk and examine it. In tie stall and parlour
facilities use a strip cup. Wash off the parlour floor before the next group of
cows enters.
Foremilking provides a powerful signal to initiate milk let-down and it provides
an opportunity to detect and prevent abnormal milk from entering the tank.

4. Clean teats and teat ends


Mastitis control and producing high quality milk requires that cows have clean,
dry teats when units are attached. Clean each teat and teat end using
approved materials. Wipe each teat dry using single service paper or cloth
towels, one per cow. If cloth towels are used be certain to effectively launder
and dry them before re-using.

Never start the milking procedure with cleaning of the teats! The result is that germs growing in the teat
canal can be moved further up into the udder. Always start with foremilking before cleaning of teats!

65

Notes:

During milking
5. Check Milking System
Select a vacuum level and pulsation system appropriate for the dairy farm and
have it installed according to DeLaval specifications.
Always check the vacuum level at the start of each milking.

6. Attach milking cluster at appropriate time


Within 6090 seconds of all teat preparation procedures, milking units need to
be attached.
Minimize air entries during cluster attachment.
Adjust milking cluster so that it is properly balanced front to back, side to side
with no twisting.

7. Avoid overmilking
Overmilking is considered a primary cause of teat end hyperkeratosis. When
the udder has been emptied satisfactorily, the milking unit needs to be
removed. This can be detected by manual observation or, for systems with
ACRs, allowing flow sensors to detect low flow and direct the automatic
removal of the cluster. Flow controlled milking systems provide a visual
indication when low flow has been attained.

8. Ensure proper removal of cluster


When milking is completed the vacuum to the cluster can be shut-off manually
or automatically. Allow claw vacuum to decline completely before removing
the unit. DO NOT squeeze the udder and pull down on milking units as this
may lead to air entry around the liner mouthpiece, this has been implicated in
new cases of mastitis.

66

Notes:

After milking
9. Sanitise teats after each milking
As soon as possible after the unit is removed, sanitise each teat with an
approved post milking teat dip or spray. This is the single most effective
procedure to prevent the cow to cow spread of contagious mastitis organisms.

10. Clean milking equipment immediately after milking


Clean off the external surfaces of the milking system.
After each use, either manually or automatically rinse and clean all system
components using appropriate products at the proper temperature. Allow the
system to drain dry.
Where required, sanitise the system prior to the next milking using approved
sanitisers at the proper dilution.

11. Properly cool milk


Check cooling temperatures to be certain the proper temperatures are being
reached during and after each milking.
Proper refrigeration temperatures greatly slow or stop the growth of most
bacteria.

12. Monitor milk quality milking equipment, and milking performance data
regularly
Review all milk quality, milk composition, and milking center performance
information regularly and compare it to historical data.
Replace liners and rubber goods according to recommendations. Old rubber
goods become cracked and porous and this influences milking performance
and increases the risk of soil and bacterial build-ups. Such problems may lead
to increased milking times and higher bacteria counts.
Have the total milking system serviced regularly according to DeLavals
recommendations.

All twelve golden rules plus extra benefits like stimulating the udder and drying teats after cleaning are combined in a DeLaval voluntary milking system
VMS.
Further reading
For more information see the booklet entitled DeLaval Efficient Milking and
visit the knowledge section at www.delaval.com. You can also visit the
DeLaval sponsored website www.milkproduction.com.

67

XVIII. Barn planning


Notes:

Did you know?


The smallest cow ever
known lived in the 17th
century and was just
86 centimetres tall.

Did you
calculate?
20 years cows, have
grown 20 centimetres.
How often do you have to
adjust the neckrail?

68

When building a new barn or renovating an existing facility, one key aim is to
create a comfortable environment for the cow to live in. A second important
goal is to create an environment that stays relatively clean and dry, to minimise the risks of foot and udder infections that can result from contact with
urine or faeces in the bedding or on the floor.

A new barn should fit the environment in which it is built. Some points to
think about are:
Farm routine
Region
Availability of products (materials)
Climate
Almost every country in the world has its own recommendations for the dimensions of barn equipment. Thats because of the different sizes of the local
dairy breeds and the differences within a breed between countries. In general,
you should work from the following dimensions, adjusted to local circumstances and breeds:






Cubicle length: 2.30 to 2.55 metres


Cubicle width: 1.15 to 1.25 metres
Neck rail height: 1.80 to 2.00 metres (measured on the diagonal)
Feed alley: 4 to 5 metres
Alley between cubicles: 3.0 to 4.5 metres
Passages: 2.0 to 3.5 metres (depending on positioning of water troughs)
Space: 4.5 to 5.5 square metres per cow

Checkpoints for barn planning

Notes:

In general
Ensure good earthing of all metal parts in the barn, because cows are very
sensitive to stray voltage (leaking current).
Provide a safe environment for cows and people. For example, ensure there.
are no potentially dangerous sharp edges and have escape routes available
for people and for submissive cows.
Cubicles
Have good bedding for good resting conditions and make it easy for
standing up or lying down.
Ensure enough space for cows to stand up (lung forward), lie down .
and rest.
Good ventilation in front of the cubicles is important because otherwise a
cow will not lie down.
Alleys
A floor must be hygienic, comfortable to walk on and have an even, skid resistant surface without being too abrasive.
To reduce the chance of hoof injuries, dairy cows should be kept in
conditions that allow their hooves to stay dry as much as possible.
Crossovers or escape alleys should be established on each end of a cubicle
section. If the cubicle row consists of more than 20 cubicles, the farmer
must establish additional crossovers to achieve free cow circulation.
Feeding table
There should be about 60 to 76 centimetres of space per cow and enough
room for all the cows to come and eat at the same time.
The feed bunk should be 10 to15 centimetres higher than the floor where
the cows are standing.
Water
Three to four metres of space is needed around the water tank to reduce
pushing and shoving.
There should be one water trough available for every 15 to 20 cows.
In tied-up barns, there should be one water bowl per cow.
Ventilation
Keep fresh air circulating.
Exchange stale barn air for fresh, outside air uniformly throughout the barn.
The ventilation system should prevent high humidity in winter and
excessive heat build-up in summer.
Light
Use lamps, windows or roof plates to ensure there is sufficient light for the
cows. The basic rule is that you need 150L to 200L during the light period.

69

Notes:

70

Safety earthing
Cows have a low inner resistance and are able to sense very low amounts of
voltage and current. Normally cows react to a current intensity of less than
five to seven milliamperes and a voltage intensity of at least four to ten volts.
Ensure good earthing of all metal parts in the barn such as fences and cubicles, so the cows are not exposed to leaking current.

Acknowledgements
DeLaval appreciates the input and experience of many contributors and
researchers from within DeLaval and the international dairying community
in producing this booklet. A key resource for the development of this booklet
was Jan Hulsen of Vetvice, whose book Cow Signals (Roodbont Publishers,
2005) has been inspirational in helping us increase our understanding of cow
comfort and the important role it plays in maximising the returns from any
modern dairy herd.

Notes:

References and links


Anderson, Neil. 2003. Cow behaviour to judge free stall and tie stall barns.
Livestock Technology, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
www.cowcomfortzone.com/behave.pdf.
Anon, 2001. Interdisciplinary report Housing design for Cattle Danish Recommendations. Third edition 2001. The Danish Agricultural Advisory Center.
English translation 2002. 122pp.
Bergsten, Christer. 2002. Future direction & issues in hoof care & cow comfort. www.milkproduction.com.
Blowey, Roger & Peter Edmondson. 1995. Mastitis control in dairy herds. Old
Pond Publishing.
Borderas T.F., B. Pawluczuk, A.M. de Passill & J. Rushen. 2004. Claw
Hardness of Dairy Cows: Relationship to Water Content and Claw Lesions.
J.Dairy Sci. 87:2085-2093, American Dairy Science Association.
Bray, David R. & Jan K.Shearer. 2003. Mastitis Control. Document DS7, Animal Science Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of
Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original pub. Oct.1986,
revised June 1996, reviewed June 2003. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Cook, Nigel B. The Influence of Cow Comfort on Lameness and Production.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. www.vetmed.wisc.edu/dms/fapm/publicats/proceeds/Influenceofcowcomfortonlameprod.pdf
Cook, Nigel B & Ken Nordlund. How the Environment Affects Cow Longevity.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. www.wisc.edu/dysci/uwex/brochures/
brochures/cowlongevity.pdf.
Dahl G.E. & D. Petitclerc. 2003. Management of photoperiod in the dairy
herd for improved production and health. Journal of Animal Science 81:11
17.
de Ondarza, Mary Beth. 2000. Cow Comfort. www.milkproduction.com.

71

Notes:

de Ondarza, Mary Beth. 2001. Behavior. www.milkproduction.com.


de Ondarza, Mary Beth. 2001. Body Condition Score. www.milkproduction.
com.
Dunham, Dick, Gerald Stokka, Jeff Stevenson, Joe Harner, Johan Ericson,
John F. Smith and Matt Meyer. 2002. Coping with Summer Weather.
www.milkproduction.com.
Edmondson, A.J., I.J. Lean, C.O. Weaver, T. Farver & G. Webster. 1989. A
body condition scoring chart for Holstein dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 72: 6878.
Fregonesi, Jose, Cassandra Tucker, Dan Weary and Christoph Winckler.
Higher stocking rates reduce lying time. University of British Columbia.
Gooch, Curt A. 2005. Effective Natural Ventilation Strategies.
www.milkproduction.com.
Grant, Rick. 2005. Incorporating dairy cow behaviour into management
tools. www.milkproduction.com.
Grant, Rick & Jeff Keown. 1996. Managing dairy cattle for cow comfort and
maximum intake. pubs@unl.edu.
Grant R.J. & J.L. Albright. 2000. Feeding behaviour. In Farm Animal Metabolism and Nutrition. J.P.F. DMello, ed. CABI Publishing. New York, NY.
Hemling, Thomas C., J. Eric Hillerton, F. Neijenhuis; Ian Ohnstad; R. Farnsworth, M. Dam Rassmussen. Teat condition Evaluation. III Pan-American
Congress on the Control of Mastitis and Milk Quality, March 2006, Leon,
Mexico.
Holmes, Brian. 2004. Preventing Pneumonia and other Respiratory Illness in
dairy barns. University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension.
Hulsen, Jan. 2005 Koesignalen Roodbont Publishers.
Hulsen, Jan. 2005. Cow Signals. Roodbont Publishers.
Janni, Kevin. 1999. Lighting Dairy Facilities. Minnesota/Wisconsin Engineering Notes.
Lynch J.J. & G. Alexander. 1973. The Pastoral Industries of Australia. University Press, Sydney, Australia.
Mein G.A., F. Neijenhuis, W.F. Morgan, D.J. Reinemann, J.E. Hillerton, J.R.

72

Baines, I. Ohnstad, M.D. Rasmussen, L. Timms, J.S. Britt, R. Farnsworth, &


N.B. Cook. 2001. Evaluation of Bovine Teat Condition in Commercial Dairy
Herds: 1. Non-infectious factors. Proceedings AABP-NMC International
Symposium on Mastitis and Milk Quality, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Notes:

Metz J.H.M. & H.K.Wierenga. 1987. Behavioural criteria for the design of
housing systems for cattle. In: H.K. Wierenga & D.J. Peterse (eds), Cattle
housing systems, lameness and behaviour, 1425. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Nilsson, C. 1992. Walking and lying surfaces in livestock houses.
Farm animals and the environment, Eds: Phillips & Piggins, pp 93110. Butterworths.
Quaife, Thomas & Roger Palmer. 2002. New research sheds light on bedding
choices. Dairy Herd Management, University of Wisconsin.
Robinson P.H. 2001. Locomotion Scoring Dairy Cows. Cooperative Extension, University of California, Davis.
SHS Efficient dairy herd management. (Swedish Association for livestock,
breeding and production).
Sprecher D.J., D.E. Hostetler & J.B. Kaneene. 1997. A lameness scoring
system that uses posture and gait to predict dairy cattle reproductive performance. Theriogenology 47:1178-1187.
Staff. www.milkproduction.com, 2002. Basics of reproductive function
Staff. www.milkproduction.com. Digestive physiology of the cow.
Waldner, Dan N. & Michael L Looper. Water for Dairy Cattle. F-4275, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University.
www.delaval.com/Dairy_Knowledge/12_golden_rules.htm.
www.delaval.com/Dairy_Knowledge/EfficientFeeding/Feeding_Systems_
And_Strategies.htm.

73

Notes:

Appendix
1) W.M. Groves, 2002, Heat detection strategies for dairy cattle, published
Bulletin 1212, April 2002 by the university Georgia College of Agricultural
and Environmental sciences.
2) Quaife, Thomas & Roger Palmer. 2002. New research sheds light on bedding choices. Dairy Herd Management, University of Wisconsin.
3) Manske T, Hultgren J, Bergstren C, 2002, Prevalence and interrelationships of hoof lesions and lameness by Swedish dairy cows, Swedish university of agricultural sciences, Skara PMID: 12114012 Pubmed indexed for
Mediline.
4) Peterse, D.J., 1991, Lameness in cattle, PMID: 1862505 Pubmed
indexed for Medline.
5) National Research Council NRC, 2001. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy
Cattle, Seventh Revised Edition, National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
6) Grant, R. 1986, Water quality and requirements for dairy cattle. University
of Nebraska Lincoln NebGuide, G93-1138-A.
7) Moore, R.B., J.W. Fuquay, and W.J. Drapala. 1992. Effects of late gestation heat stress on postpartum milk production and reproduction in dairy
cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 75:1877-1882.

74

Notes:

Notes:

75

www.delaval.com
Notes:

76

DeLaval is a trademark of the DeLaval Group. The manufacturer reserves the right to make
design changes. 53570527BR-en/200607