Ark Veterinary Centre

Cow Comfort

Jun 1, 2020

Ever wonder if your cows are happy? You may visually check your cows several times a day but you may be missing signs your cows are telling you. These clever creatures will indicate their health and comfort through their behaviour. Each housing system has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of welfare.

Dairy cows are designed to lie down for 10-12 hours per day. This is a high priority, even higher than social interaction and eating. A lying cow will help udder function and milk production. When there aren’t enough cubicles, lying time will reduce, interactions between cows become aggressive and both mastitis and lameness increase. Having more cows than cubicles can have an impact via additional soiling of the bedding and hoof damage through increased standing times. We want a well designed cubicle bed which will allow the animal to lie down and rest without rubbing against the partitions. Poorly designed cubicles will result in soiled and wetter beds. When a cow is in the lying position, she will lunge forward to push all the weight from her hindquarters to her front legs. With the transfer of the weight she will thrust herself forward whilst lunging. It is recommended to have 0.6m of space in front of her to rise nicely. If restricted she will have problems rising. If the beds are not correct the cow will not lie down but will stand until she exhausts herself. 

For an open cubicle for a Holstein cow, the ideal length is 1.8m (180cm of cow lying space), 0.6m lunging space, curb 20cm, neck rail to floor 1.3m, brisket box 0.1m, partitions (inside to inside) 1.2m-1.8m with the width of the cows hips in mind and the neck rail to the curb 2.2m.Cows will look for the most comfortable resting place. This can become a competition between cows and cause conflict which can lead to diseases and reproductive problems. Cows prefer to remain standing rather than the discomfort associated with lying or rising when housed on rough bedding. With uncomfortable cubicles this can increase the number of cows perching, this is front feet in the cubicles and the back feet in the passageway. This leads to pressure on the back feet leading to bruised feet which could turn into a sole ulcer. Why not enquire about someone who hasn’t seen your farm looking at it from a different prospective? We want to keep the cows and the farmers happy! Happy cows give more milk.