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Comparison of Freestall Bedding Materials and their Effect on Cow Behavior and Cow Health

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

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(6): 1051-1060. (doi: 10.13031/2013.35909) @2010
Authors:   R. E. Boone, R. A. Bucklin, D. R. Bray
Keywords:   Cow comfort, Freestall bedding, Cow orientation, Hock health

Cow comfort was evaluated in a freestall barn at the University of Florida Dairy Research Unit during the summer of 2008 by comparing the effects of three bedding materials on freestall usage, hock health, and leg hygiene. The bedding materials were sand, waterbeds, and waterbeds with approximately 1.5 in. (3.81cm) of sand on top. Video surveillance was used to examine the interaction between the cows and freestalls for the two 4-week trials. Trial one consisted of a sand-bedded herd and a waterbed herd. Trial two consisted of a sand-bedded herd and waterbeds with sand on top herd. Each herd was housed in a different section of the barn. The interaction between the freestalls and the cows was quantified into cow orientation: lying, standing, or perching within stalls, and empty stalls. A total of 112 freestalls were used for the experiment, 56 for each treatment. The sand-bedded freestalls resulted in the highest overall lying percentage (52.9%) and the waterbeds resulted in the highest percentage of empty stalls (49.2%). Injuries to the hocks were highest for both the waterbeds and the waterbeds with sand on top. The waterbeds alone had the dirtiest cows with a highest least square mean hygiene score.

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