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Materials to Help Guide Producers towards Improving Cow Comfort on Their Farms
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ACCOMODATION AND HOUSING - STALL DESIGN
HOCK, KNEE AND NECK INJURIES
the hocks can be an important indicator of the abrasiveness of stall surface
and cow comfort. Injury is usually the result of prolonged exposure to an
abrasive stall surface. Injuries can also be associated with poor stall design
and increased lying time in sick cows. Skin breakage provides an opportunity
for infection to occur, which can lead to swelling, discomfort, and possibly
Knee health is
an important indicator of the hardness of the stall floor and cow comfort.
Injury is usually the result of prolonged exposure to a hard stall floor
leading to swelling and skin breakage which provides an opportunity for
infection to occur resulting in discomfort and possibly lameness.
Neck injury is
an important indicator of whether the neck rail/chain in the stalls is at the correct
height and that the feed is within easy reach. Neck injuries are usually the
result of prolonged exposure to rubbing or hitting against the neck rail/chain
or feed bunk rail/chain. Some other factors that can play a role in this type
of injury are the cow’s size, the amount of bedding, the length of the neck
chain, presence of electric trainers and whether the cow is used to being tied.
trainers may improve stall hygiene, but the proper placement of the trainer is imperative
for it to work effectively and to avoid injuries. Electric trainers should not
touch the animals when they are standing undisturbed in their stalls.
Canadian Holstein (>700 kg) requires >76 cm of open forward space for
lunging motion. Impaired lunge space may result in improper movements when
getting up that could lead to injuries and lameness. All cows should have
adequate forward space to lunge properly while motioning to stand up.
Canadian Holstein cow (>700 kg) needs 183 cm of bed length in order to lie
freely in their stall. Shorter stalls may result in decreased lying time,
increased hoof lesions, leg injuries and lameness. All cows should have a bed
length that fits them properly.
Canadian Holstein cow (> 700 kg) requires 137 cm of stall width in order to
rest comfortably. Narrow stalls reduce lying time and may increase lameness.
All cows should have a stall wide enough to fit them properly.
ACCOMODATION AND HOUSING - STALL MANAGEMENT
STALL BASE/ STALL BEDDING
platforms or hard rubber mats with little bedding (< 2 cm) reduce lying time
to below 11 h/d while cows housed on mattress, sand or deep
bedded-concrete/rubber may lie down for 12 h/d. Concrete platforms or hard
rubber with little bedding (< 2 cm) increase hock and knee injuries. A lower
incidence of hock injuries has been found in herds with mattresses when bedding
is added more frequently to the stalls. This is likely because the stalls are
not as wet and the stall base becomes less abrasive with more bedding.
cow comfort has shown that dry bedding is important to cows. Wet bedding
reduces lying time more than any other feature of stall design. Maintaining
clean and dry stalls will improve cow comfort and encourage cows to lay down
longer while keeping the cows cleaner. Cows with cleaner udders will have a
decreased chance of environmental mastitis.
the type of stall base, research showed that cows tend to prefer sand over
rubber mats, mattresses, or concrete when given a choice. Sand bedding has been
shown to improve cleanliness, amount of skin lesions on hocks and knees, and
number of lame cows. All of these lead to improved welfare for the cow and, as
a result, higher production rates can be achieved with sand-bedded stalls when
compared to other stall surfaces. In
general, using deep bedding, regardless of the type, helps to lower the number
of hock injuries in dairy cattle.
cleanliness is an important indicator of cow comfort. Frequent and strategic
cleaning of the alleys and stalls will reduce the amount of manure on cows and
reduce the amount of manure tracked into the stalls. On the other hand, dirty
legs point to manure splashing in the alleys; dirty flanks and udders are a
result of animals lying in dirty and/or poorly bedded stalls.
Cows will not
lie down as long when provided with wet stalls. Cows with large areas of dried
caked manure indicate a long-term build-up of manure and highlight weaknesses
in the cleaning routine of the alleys and/or stalls.
In a free-stall
facility, stocking density is also an important factor to consider as part of
cow welfare. Providing enough stalls per cow helps decrease stress on the cows
by reducing competition for lying space, as a result, cows will spend more time
lying down. Providing enough stalls for each cow may encourage cows to stand at
the feed bunk after milking, allowing teat-ends to close before they lay down
and decreasing the risk of mastitis.
FEED AND WATER
BODY CONDITION SCORING
scoring is a technique for assessing the thickness of fat cover of dairy
cattle. For dairy cattle, the crucial periods are at calving and during early
lactation. Cows should be at an ideal body condition score (BCS) at dry off
(3.25 to 3.75) and should be fed to maintain this condition until calving. Both
over-conditioned and under-conditioned cattle are of concern when considering
the wellbeing of the animal. If cows are over-conditioned during the dry period,
they can be at an increased risk of becoming lame after calving. These heavier
cows are also more prone to developing digital dermatitis (a.k.a
hairy heel wart) compared to ideally conditioned cows. A cow’s hoof contains a
fat pad known as the digital cushion. This cushion provides support to the hoof
by absorbing the force that is placed on the hoof each time the cow takes a
step. A cow with a low body condition is at higher risk of lameness because the
digital cushion is thinner and therefore, not supporting the hoof as it should
be. These under-conditioned cows have
been shown to be at a higher risk of sole ulcers and white line disease.
(calving to 120 days), cows can be expected to lose 0.5 to 1 unit of BCS. Cows
should not lose more than 1 unit of BCS at any time. BCS should remain constant
or begin to increase during mid-lactation. During late lactation, cows should
gain back the BCS lost during the post-calving period. Producers must take
corrective action for animals at a BCS of 2 or lower.
NUTRITION AND FEED MANAGEMENT
management is necessary to ensure good health and welfare. Cows are motivated
to perform the same activity at the same time (e.g., feed, rest, ruminate).
Cows also prefer to eat during daylight hours. Increased feeding frequency (at
least twice per day) has been found to reduce the amount of total mixed ration
(TMR) sorting that occurs and allows subordinate cows to access feed more
often. Feeding them more frequently can encourage them to consume more feed
throughout the day as well. Feed management programs that consider such
behavioural needs are likely to reduce stress and aggressive behaviours within
a herd, and have a positive impact on herd health and productivity.
dairy cattle is a significant welfare problem indicating pain. Lame cows alter
their behaviour to reduce bearing weight on the affected limb.
dairy cows is widely recognized as one of the most serious (and costly) animal
welfare issues in the dairy industry. Lameness results in decreased mobility,
reduced Dry Matter Intake (DMI), decreased production, impaired reproduction,
debilitated cows, and early culling. Lameness can be caused by many different
factors including genetics, age of the cow, production level, stage of
lactation and infectious diseases but the majority of problems are related to
nutrition and the environment that the cow lives in. Prompt recognition,
diagnosis, and early treatment minimize animal welfare concerns and allow the
cow to produce to her potential. Lame cows must be diagnosed early and either
treated, culled or euthanized.
is an important tool to prevent and treat lameness and should be a part of the
overall claw-health program. It has been shown that regular hoof-trimming is
essential for early detection of subclinical lameness in dairy cows. By
detecting subclinical lameness earlier, a treatment plan can be implemented
before the problem progresses and the cow becomes severely lame.
can also be prevented by providing a clean environment for the cows to stand.
This can be achieved by increasing the amount of times alleys are scraped down
during the day. Providing cows with a softer surface to stand on, such as
rubber, can help decrease strain that is placed on their feet and legs.
Schopke, K., Weidling, S., Pijl, R., and Swalve, H. H. 2012. Relationships between bovine hoof disorders, body condition traits, and
test-day yields. Journal of Dairy Science 96: 679-689.
Andreasen S. N., and Forkman B. 2012. The welfare of dairy cows is improved in
relation to cleanliness and integument alterations on the hocks and lameness
when sand is used as stall surface. Journal of Dairy Science 95: 4961-4969.
Fregonesi J. A., Tucker C. B., and Weary D. M. 2007. Overstocking reduces lying time in dairy
cows. Journal of Dairy Science 90:3349-3354.
Ito K., von Keyserlingk
M. A. G., LeBlanc S. J., and Weary D. M. 2010. Lying behavior as an indicator of lameness
in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 93:3553-3560.
Bruijnis M. R. N., Beerda B., Hogeveen
H., and Stassen E. N. 2011. Assessing the welfare
impact of foot disorders in dairy cattle by a modeling approach. Animal
Chapinal N., Liang Y., Weary D. M., Wang Y., and von Keyselingk
M. A. G. 2014. Risk factors for lameness and hock
injuries in Holstein herds in China. Journal of Dairy Science
Fulwider W. K.,
Grandin T., Garrick D. J., Engle T. E., Lamm W. D., Dalsted N. L., and Rollin B. E. 2007. Influence of
free-stall base on tarsal joint lesions and hygiene in dairy cows. Journal of
Dairy Science 90:3559-3566.
Bicalho R. C., Machado V. S., and Caixeta L. S.
2009. Lameness in dairy cattle: A debilitating disease or a disease of
debilitated cattle? A cross-sectional study of lameness
prevalence and thickness of the digital cushion. Journal of Dairy
Science 92: 3175-3184.
Green L. E., Huxley J. N., Banks C., and
Green M. J. 2014. Temporal associations between low body condition, lameness
and milk yield in a UK dairy herd. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 113: 63-71.
Zurbrigg K., Kelton D., Anderson N., Millman S.
2005. Stall dimensions and the prevalence of lameness, injury, and
cleanliness on 317 tie-stall dairy farms in Ontario. Canadian Veterinary
Journal 46: 902-909.
DeVries T. J., von Keyserlink M. A. G., Beauchemin
K. A. 2005. Frequency of feed delivery affects the behavior of lactating
dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 88: 3553-3562.