Recommendations to avoid welfare problems in dairy cow cubicles

An inappropriate size can cause an increase in skin changes, lameness and dirt, among other problems.

Cubicles improperly sized for dairy cattle can lead to increased skin disturbances, lameness, and dirt. In this sense, the International Commission for Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (CIGR) has developed some recommendations for cubicle design, although some studies have shown that not all appear efficient. This study aimed to refine and complete these recommendations.

To do this, the researchers collected data from 76 dairy farms (2,404 cows), modeling the association between combinations of cubicle properties (for example, bed type) and dimensions (for example, cubicle width) about the size of the cubicle: the cow and the prevalence of alterations of the cow's skin, lameness, and dirt.

Weighted multivariate logistic regression models were used to predict the presence of skin alteration in:

  • the carpus.
  • The neck.
  • Shoulders and back.
  • The flank, flank, and udder.
  • the tarsus or hindquarters.

The presence of lameness was also evaluated, as well as the dirtiness of:

  • the hind legs, including the hocks.
  • Hindquarters.
  • The upper hind legs and flank.
  • The rear of the cow, including the tail.
  • The udder.

The researchers' recommendations

  1. The risk factors detected led the researchers to recommend the following:
  2. place the cubicles so that they leave more than 1 m of free space from any obstacles in front of them.
  3. If there is an obstacle in the lateral plane (i.e., where the cubicle partition is) in front of the cow, place it in front of the front knees.
  4. If there is an obstacle in front of the cow in the median plane (for example, neck or front rail), place it between 1.25 and 1.5 of the cow's length from the curb and between 1.0 and 1., 25 of your height.
  5. Use a curb height between 0.11 and 0.15 of the cow's height without sharp edges.
  6. Use around chest board or at least one without sharp edges.
  7. Use a floor without stones instead of cement or a mattress of more than 1 cm, with micro-relief and a soft fixing area on the curb.
  8. Use sand with straw (instead of nothing or sawdust) and keep it dry.

Experiments should follow this risk factor analysis in controlled settings to validate these conclusions further; the researchers caution and update the CIGR recommendations.

Romain Lardy, Alice de Boyer des Roches, Jacques Capdeville, Renaud Bastien, Luc Mounier, Isabelle Veissier. Refinement of international recommendations for cubicles, based on the identification of associations between cubicle characteristics and dairy cow welfare measures. Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 104, Issue 2, P2164-2184, February 01, 2021.

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