Poor stall comfort impairs lying behavior and leads to injuries in dairy cattle. A study by S. McPherson and E. Vasseur of McGill University in Canada has examined how cow comfort might be maximized through the combined effect of three aspects of stall bed - stall length, manger wall height and bedding depth.
For the study, two rows of 12 tie-stalls were modified. Each row was a different length: short (178 cm; length commonly found in Quebec) or long (188 cm). Two manger wall treatments were applied randomly to the stalls in each row: high (20 cm, upper limit recommended) or low (5 cm). A 7.6 cm deep straw bedding layer was maintained by a bedding guard. Cows were randomly divided into four groups (n = six per group), blocked by parity (2.7 ± 0.32) and DIM (115 ± 13.2 days). Two groups were assigned to each row and subjected to both manger wall treatments in a crossover design (one week habituation, six week data collection per treatment). Lying behaviors were recorded continuously via leg-mounted accelerometers. Hock injury was scored one time per week and analyzed as a difference from baseline for each period.
Data were analyzed using a mixed model with length, sequence, block, treatment and period as fixed effects, week as a repeated measure and cow as a random effect. Cows in long stalls were found to spend more time lying (848.5 vs. 797.9 minutes per day; P < 0.05) and had longer lying bouts than cows in short stalls (74.1 vs. 52.9 min per bout; P < 0.05). Improvement in hock injury was observed from week one to six for all treatments (P ≤ 0.001, lateral tarsal; P ≤ 0.01, lateral calcanei).
The researcher said manger wall height did not affect injury or lying time. Higher lying times in their study were comparable to those reported in deep-bedded loose-pens, indicating that cows with more bedding, especially those in long stalls, were more comfortable.
The researchers reported their results at the American Dairy Science Assn. annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio.