The full impact of cow comfort on reproductive performance has not been fully quantified. However, cow comfort can be linked to lameness, which in turn, can be linked to reproductive performance, says Nigel Cook, University of Wisconsin veterinarian.

There is reasonable evidence to suggest that cows housed in free-stall facilities require about 12 hours per day of rest in a comfortable stall. When a cow’s time budget is challenged through increased time out of the pen for milking, overstocking, poor stall design, heat stress and prolonged time spent in lock-ups, the primary outcome is increased lameness. “There is a significant stress response to inadequate rest,” Cook contends.

 Reducing lameness is one way to positively impact reproductive performance, he adds. “Recent multifactorial analyses have also highlighted the negative association between breeding-pen stocking density and breeding efficiency, highlighting the importance of cow comfort,” Cook says. “Until recently, this area has not received the attention it deserves.”