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HOCK LESIONS AND FREE-STALL DESIGN: EFFECTS OF STALL SURFACE

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Pp. 288-295 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference (Fort Worth, Texas USA)  701P0203.(doi:10.13031/2013.11634)
Authors:   L. Mowbray, T. Vittie and D. M. Weary
Keywords:   stall design & management, animal health – housing interactions

An important criterion in the design of any housing systems is that the facilities do not cause injuries to the animals. Unfortunately, skin lesions on the hocks of dairy cattle are common in some housing systems. In this paper we describe the results from three experiments assessing the effects of free-stall design on the development of hock lesions. In the first experiment, we compared cows stalls fitted with geotextile mattresses versus stalls bedded with 20 + cm of sand. All other aspects of the stalls were identical. Cows in both treatment groups started the experiment with few lesions, but lesions developed rapidly over the 6 weeks of the trial. Average( + or – nonsymmetrical SE) lesion size on the tarsal joint, or hock, was larger for cows using mattresses than for cows using the deep-bedded sand stalls (3.51 – 1.93 vs. 0.31 + 0.53 cm2), but the reverse was true for lesions on the tuber calcis, or point of the hock, (0.69 + 1.06 vs. 7.90 – 3.36 cm2). In a second experiment we tested if an additive to the bedding could be used to reduce friction and, therefore, reduce lesions on cows using mattresses. We found no differences in lesions on cows using stalls bedded with sawdust only versus those using stalls bedded with a combination of sawdust and 325-mesh limestone flour. In Experiment 3, we again compared stalls with deepbedded sand versus geotextile mattresses, but in this case the mattresses were recessed 5 cm below the level of the curb and covered with 3-5 cm of sand. Using this installation of mattresses, we found that lesions on the tarsal joint did not differ between the two types of stall. However, again we found that lesions on the tuber calcis were larger on cows using the deep-bedded stalls (14.12 – 5.22 vs. 1.32 + 1.77 cm2 for cows using the recessed mattresses), probably from increased contact with the cement curb at the rear of the stall. In conclusion, skin lesions on both the tarsal joint and tuber calcis develop rapidly with effects of bedding differences apparent after 3 to 6 weeks. Adding limestone flour to sawdust on mattresses did not reduce lesions. However, mattresses resulted in fewer lesions compared to deep-bedded stalls if mattresses were recessed several centimeters below the curb allowing for more bedding.

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