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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/11019/1326

Title: Welfare and health of dairy cattle on out-wintering pads or in cubicle housing with or without cushioned flooring.
Authors: Boyle, Laura
Mee, John F
O'Donovan, Michael
Kiernan, Paul
Keywords: Cattle Housing systems
Cattle welfare
cushioned flooring
Issue Date: 1-Oct- 2
Publisher: Teagasc
Citation: Boyle, L., Mee, J., O'Donovan, M.,k Kiernan, P. Welfare and health of dairy cattle on out-wintering pads or in cubicle housing with or without cushioned flooring, End of Project Reports, Teagasc. 2005.
Series/Report no.: End of Project Reports;
Abstract: The first study described in this report involved housing 66 spring calving heifers in one of three systems during the winter, namely, (i) a conventional cubicle house, (ii) a cubicle house with cushioned flooring covering the slats (slat mats) in the passageway and (iii) on a wood-chip out-wintering pad. Behaviour, health and performance indicators were measured on all animals while pregnant from housing in November 2003 until calving in January 2004. Additionally, data were collected on the first 15 animals to calve in each treatment for the first four weeks of lactation in the spring. The slat mats resulted in some improvements to hoof health compared to the conventional cubicle house. Furthermore, it increased feeding times although this had no effect on feed intake or performance. The results also indicated that heifers have a preference for standing on cushioned flooring rather than on concrete during late pregnancy. Both groups indoors differed greatly from the outdoor heifers in several respects. The outdoor animals had healthier feet and were less affected by injuries to the limbs. They also had a more diverse behaviour repertoire and slipped and tripped less. However, their welfare was adversely affected by inclement weather conditions with indications of immunosuppression combined with a reduction in average daily gain being recorded. Furthermore, they were dirtier and spent less time lying down. None of these factors influenced milk yield, quality or composition in early lactation. Welfare problems associated with the pad were weather and management dependent and hence could be addressed by more frequent cleaning of the pad and/or an increase in space allowance combined with the provision of shelter. Hence, the potential for good welfare in dairy heifers was higher on the pad than indoors in a cubicle system even when slat mats were provided. In the second study, 62 autumn calving pluriparous dairy cows were housed in September 2004 in a cubicle system with either solid concrete floors or solid concrete floors covered by a rubber mat and cleaned by an automatic scrapper. Behaviour, locomotion and foot lesion scores were recorded from at least 3 weeks prior to calving until at least 16 weeks post-partum. Furthermore, in-depth measures of oestrous behaviour and reproductive performance were recorded. The cushioned flooring had no effect on sole or white line lesion scores or on dermatitis scores. However, it reduced the rate of wear of the heels in early lactation. Cows on cushioned flooring spent more time standing, but not feeding, at the feed face while cows on concrete stood in the cubicles instead. It appears that where cows have access to spacious, well-designed cubicles they can use them for standing to get relief for their feet from the concrete. Similar to the previous study this also indicates that cows prefer to stand on cushioned flooring than on bare concrete and emphasises the importance of at least providing cows with mats or mattresses in their cubicles. There were no effects of the cushioned flooring on oestrous behaviour or reproductive performance, which was poor in both treatments. It is suggested that the reasons for this were that the cushioned flooring did not provide sufficient traction for the cows and so they were as reluctant as the cows on concrete to perform mounting behaviour.
Description: End of Project Report
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/11019/1326
Appears in Collections:AGRIP End of Project Reports

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