How to create cow-friendly tie stalls

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Tie stall barns are important for Pennsylvania dairy farmers. The central and most important location in a tie stall housing system is the individual stall where each cow has her personal living space and her caretakers feed her, milk her, provide her with a clean dry comfortable resting space by regular manure removal and bedding maintenance, groom her and provide a variety of health and management practices. Regular access to exercise is also important.  Providing a dry comfortable resting area for dairy cattle is essential to their health, well being and performance. Cows typically rest 10-14 hours per day in five or more resting bouts.

 
A 1300-1500 pound cow requires about 68-70 inches of body space plus 38 - 40 inches  of head and lunge space to rise and recline naturally and rest comfortably; the minimum  total length required is 9 feet. The stall curb helps define body space and prevents a resting cow from moving too far forward in the stall as she reclines

 


A cow thrusts her body forward and head down as she rises, using the weight shift and momentum to raise her hind quarters. The tie chain must be long enough and located so it does not restrain this motion. Older tomb stone, yoke or rigid stanchion stalls may severely restrict this motion and their use in modern barns is strongly discouraged. Longer tie chains that allow the cow to step back before reclining may be helpful with these older stalls.

 

A total of 9’ unobstructed space allows enough room for a cow to lunge forward naturally. The stall curb, tie rail, water bowl or other rigid objects should not block the front lunging space.  A maximum curb height of 9 inches above the cow standing surface is recommended.

 

The cow then shifts her weight back to raise the front of her body. She may place her hoof against or over the front curb during this action. Be sure there are no sharp or rough points in this area that might injure her.

 

  When fully raised the cow should be able to stand with all four feet in the stall and her head under or over the tie rail comfortably. This is influenced by the height above the stall surface and distance in front of the stall curb of the tie rail.

Dr. Robert Graves, professor, Penn State Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Dan McFarland, engineer, Penn State Cooperative Extension; and John Tyson, engineer, Penn State Cooperative Extension



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