The following is from a presentation by Frank van Eerdenburg, veterinarian and professor in the farm animal health department at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He presented it at the Cow Longevity Conference in late August, sponsored by DeLaval.
Q: Cows produce more milk in a comfortable environment ― it’s one of the things that nutritionists and other consultants have to convince their clients of when making facility changes. What are some of the recommendations for free-stalls?
A: The free-stalls must provide cows enough space to:
- Stretch their front legs forward.
- Lie on their sides with unobstructed space for their neck and head.
- Rest their heads against their sides without hindrance from a partition.
- Rest with their legs, udders and tails on the platform.
- Stand or lie without pain or fear from neck rails, partitions or supports and rest on a clean, dry and soft bed.
- The slope of the floor, which is important to keep the stall clean, should be between four to seven degrees.
Size of free stalls should match the size of the cows
Free-stall dimensions should be selected based on the largest cows in the herd. For a heifer group, stall dimensions can be adapted by adjusting the position of the neck rail. Stall dimensions should provide the cows enough forward lunge space. If the stall is too short, the cow may try to get up by rising on the front legs first (like a horse). Alternatively, if the stall makes lying down difficult, the cows may show frequent hesitation before lying down, usually sniffing the ground and moving their heads left and right.
Cows should have enough space to lunge forward or sideways
The lunge space is the space taken up by the head of the cow as it moves forward to stand up. It is the space in front of the brisket board. Cinematic analysis of standing up movements, indicate that dairy cattle use between 260 and 300 cm (or 102.4 to 118.1 inches) of total longitudinal space (from the nose to the most caudal point of the cow). The space needed for the lateral movement range from 60 to 110 cm at the hips. Estimates of space used by the head while lunging, based on the longitudinal movement of the nose, range between 22 and 72 cm. This is especially important for a row of stalls along walls. The cows may have no room to lunge forward in these stalls. They need therefore a space to lunge sideward. The divider should not block this space. The early types of dividers were usually problematic in this respect.