Research from the University of Wisconsin shows that moderately lame cows – those with a lameness score of 3 – housed on mattresses spend two hours less time lying down than their equally lame counterparts bedded with sand. In addition, they spend three times more time standing in their stall because it is more difficult for them to rise and lie down, says Nigel Cook, veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

This increased standing time for lame cows with mattresses can exacerbate the cows’ condition, thereby increasing the time needed to recover from lameness.

“We need to break this cycle of lameness in dairy cows,” says Cook. Healthy cows perform equally well on mattresses and on sand. But once a cow starts to become lame, her lying time decreases and her standing time increases when she has a mattress for a stall bed.