Cows prefer to lie in free-stalls without wooden brisket boards.

When given a choice between a free-stall with a wooden brisket board and one without a brisket board, dry cows in a University of British Columbia study spent 68 percent of their total lying time in stalls without a wooden brisket board. Cows also had longer lying bouts and spent, on average, 1.2 hours more per day lying down in stalls without wooden brisket boards. “This difference in lying time amounts to 15 days of lying down (360 hours) in a 300-day lactation,” says Cassandra Tucker, a ruminant nutrition and welfare scientist at an agricultural research center in Hamilton, New Zealand, and one of the study’s authors.

The brisket boards measured about 8 inches high and were positioned 89 inches from the rear of the stall at a 30-degree angle. The stalls measured about 48 inches wide and 107 inches long. Stalls were fitted with rubber-filled geotextile mattresses and bedded with about 1 to 2 inches of sawdust.

 “Although it seems likely that the brisket board helps keep stalls clean by positioning cows closer to the curb, our results indicate that brisket boards also make stalls less comfortable for cows,” Tucker says. “It would be good to know if smaller, plastic brisket boards also reduce cow comfort,” she adds.

The research appeared in the July Journal of Dairy Science.

July 2006 Journal of Dairy Science