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

Citation:  Pp. 171-177 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference (Fort Worth, Texas USA)  701P0203.(doi:10.13031/2013.11618)
Authors:   Thomas Jungbluth, Barbara Benz and Hermann Wandel
Keywords:   Animal behavior, animal health, dairy housing, flooring material

Lameness is a complex economic and welfare problem in dairy cattle which is directly linked to the flooring in loose housing systems. Mobility is the most important prerequisite for the smooth operation of such system. Foot lameness is due to several factors, but the permanent excessive strains on the sole combined with poor horn quality are key issues. In addition, slippery floors impede normal locomotion.

This study was based on the working hypothesis that soft rubber mats improve claw health and slip resistance. The elastic rubber mats selected were installed in two freestall dairy houses: the experimental farm of the University of Hohenheim and a commercial farm. Animal behaviour and claw diagnosis were recorded, with biological and ethological parameters, in three steps: firstly, on concrete slatted floors, secondly, on slatted floors covered with rubber mats and thirdly again on concrete slatted floors.

The results concerning animal behaviour and claw health confirmed the working hypothesis. Less slipping was detected on soft floors. Step length on the soft slatted floors was similar to that measured on pastures. Activity and walking speed increased on the soft floors, indicating that cows showed confidence on soft floors. Claw diagnosis, divided into 5 severities ranging from 1 (very slight) to 5 (very severe), was the most important parameter for the comparison between hard and soft floors. Claw health was significantly improved on soft slatted floors compared with the usual slatted floors.

The experiment showed that soft floors favour the requirements for the correct functioning of the claw and unimpeded cow behaviour.

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