• Settle Surgery

    Station Road
    Settle BD24 9AA

  • Bentham Branch Clinic

    Main Street
    High Bentham LA2 7LE

  • Gisburn Farm Office

    BB7 4ES

T: 01729 823 538

E: info@daleheadvetgroup.co.uk

RCVS Accredited

Dairy Cow Comfort

Dairy cows are performance athletes. If we want them to produce good quantities of quality milk we need them to be at the top of their game, but just like any athletes they need the fundamentals of biology in order to succeed, these include; Feed, Water, Light, Air, Rest and Space. Cow comfort is critical for rest and space.

We keep our cows healthy and productive by feeding them the best forage we can produce and buying the best concentrates, we keep them free from disease with vaccines, we give them minerals and medicines – but just like any athlete before any sporting event or competition they need a good nights rest.

A Dairy Cow is in constant performance mode during lactation so it stands to reason that in between milking’s as well as feeding and drinking she needs to get a lot of rest.
Cow’s don’t need much sleep, only about 30 minutes in 24 hours, but they do need to lie down in order to rest and ruminate – ideally for up to 14 hours a day.

In order to do this they need the bed to be comfortable; a deep soft substrate such as sand, filled to a depth of at least 10cm or a thick mattress. Rubber mats on their own are not adequate. Assess your cows by looking for hock and knee bruises as well as watching how quickly they lie down when they enter a cubicle. Hock/Knee bruises or swellings arise from the pressure of lying down and getting up, this indicates the cubicle surface is too hard – watch for them hesitating in the cubicle before lying down.
If you can see hock/knee abrasions – this is likely that the cubicle surface or the bedding is too rough, try rubbing a clenched fist on the cubicle surface and see what it does to your knuckles. The comfier the bed – the more likely she will lie down, rest and ruminate for the maximum amount of time - when cows are lying down, up to 30% more blood circulates through the udder; and so for every extra hours rest a cow is likely to produce an extra 1.6 litres of milk at the next milking.

If the bed is not comfy enough a cow will spend more time standing in the cubicle – or even worse if there are not enough cubicles - standing in the passageway. When she does lie down she is also less likely to stand up to go and feed and drink as often as she should do – decreasing her overall dry matter intake (DMI). This will decrease the cows performance by limiting her rest, rumination and DMI but it will also increase the pressures on her feet, increasing the risk of lameness.

Cubicle design is just as important as bed comfort; If the cubicle is not big enough that a cow can get up and down without banging herself, she will also decrease the amount of times she gets up to feed. Ideally we want her to feed 12 times per day – so standing needs to be easy for her to do without a negative association of a bang. Cubicle width, total bed length and lunge space are essential things to consider when assessing your cubicles. Imagine having a big day ahead of you and having to sleep in a bed that’s too hard, you can’t stretch out in and every time you get up you bang your head – how would you perform the next day?

For a quick assessment of your own cubicle shed – if more than 10% of resting cows are standing, cubicle comfort needs to be improved. If you would like more info or a Cow Signals Assessment of your cubicle shed please contact the surgery.


telephone (01729) 823538    fax (01729) 825171    email info@daleheadvetgroup.co.uk

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