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OBSERVATIONS ON FLOORING AND STALL SURFACES FOR DAIRY CATTLE HOUSED IN A FREE-STALL BARN
Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org
Citation: Pp. 165-170 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference (Fort Worth, Texas USA) 701P0203.(doi:10.13031/2013.11617)
Authors: F. J. Vokey, C. L. Guard, H. N. Erb, D. M. Galton
Keywords: claw lesion, hock lesion, lameness, free-stall design, prolonged standing, holding area
Lameness, an insidious economic and welfare problem in dairy cattle, is directly influenced by the
design of modern housing. In particular, concrete flooring and uncomfortable stalls are associated
with increased incidence of lameness in free-stall barns. As group size increases in large herds, the
effects of prolonged standing in the pre-milking holding area on claw health is a growing concern.
In two experiments, the effects of these housing features on hind claw and leg health and on net
growth rate of hoof horn were studied.
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In the first study, 120 lactating Holstein cows were assigned to one of 6 free-stall pens, each with a
different configuration of 3 stall surfaces (deep sand, rubber-filled mattresses or concrete) and 2
flooring surfaces (grooved concrete or rubber mats), for 105 days. Hind claws and hocks were
scored for lesions before and after the treatment period and the increase in score was recorded.
Locomotion score was recorded monthly to assess the incidence of clinical lameness, and rates of
claw growth and wear were measured at the dorsal wall. Claw lesions increased significantly for
all groups except those with rubber alleys and either concrete or sand stalls. An all-group
comparison of the increase in claw score and incidence of clinical lameness did not yield
significant differences. Sand stalls prevented hock lesions and were significantly better for hock
lesions than the pen with concrete stalls and alleys. Net growth rates of claws were highest in
cows housed in pens with concrete alleys and mattress stalls and lowest with rubber alleys and
sand stalls, indicating different levels of tendency toward hoof overgrowth: the combinations that
produced higher net growth would likely require more frequent corrective foot trimming.
In the second study, 80 Holstein heifers were assigned to one of four treatment pens in a 2 x 2
factorial design and were subjected to simulated pre-milking holding pen conditions three times
daily for 112 days. Heifers were held by headlocks (installed along one side of a free-stall pen) for
45 or 90 minutes, and stood on a concrete floor that had either a 5% slope or a flat surface.
Increase in hind-claw lesion score and rates of growth and wear for hind lateral claws were
measured as previously described. Increase in claw lesion score was significantly lower for
animals on the sloped surface. A longer time standing was not associated with higher scoreincreases.
Animals standing for 90 minutes had significantly higher rates of horn growth; however,
rates of wear or net growth did not differ. Compared with a flat surface, a slope maintains a drier
environment for the feet, an important property that appeared to prevent the formation of hindclaw
lesions, even as animals stood on the surface for up to 4.5 hours per day.