Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Evaluation of flooring systems

Key Innovative Features of Flooring Studies:
The objective of the study was to increase the understanding of the influence of flooring systems on the wellbeing and performance of dairy cows. The studies were carried out at Swedish experimental and commercial herds.

Walking comfort:
A method was developed to analyze the pattern of foot prints of the walking cow (track way analysis) to estimate the animals walking comfort on different surfaces. The best walking comfort was achieved on sand ground followed by yielding rubber flooring, solid and slatted. Least good comfort was seen on slippery concrete slats. Lame cows impaired their trackways most on concrete and differences between healthy and lame cows were least on rubber flooring and sand, and largest on concrete slatted flooring. On solid floors with different surface design rubber flooring also proved to give the best walking comfort i.e. longer strides indicating better slip-resistance. Grooved concrete and mastic asphalt improved trackways slightly compared to smooth concrete. The friction coefficient reflected partly the results, which is reasonable as the steps will be more extended when the animal trusts the surface. However, the method used here does not reflect the risk for slipping in an acute situation with crowding and riding animals.

In a preference study the majority of cows (about 70%) preferred to stand on rubber flooring rather than on concrete floors. Cows also showed a tendency to stand on extra soft rubber mats compared to soft rubber mats. The majority of cows (about 75 %) preferred to walk on rubber mats compared to slatted concrete and a slightly higher preference for solid rubber compared to slatted rubber was observed.

Longtime exposure and claw pressure:
The pressure distribution between and within claws was studied before and after long term exposure for different flooring systems using an electronical pressure plate. It was found that biomechanical parameters of the claw sole were mainly affected by differences in horn wear of the studied flooring systems. On a rougher flooring (mastic asphalt, comparable to new concrete flooring) an over-wear of the rear claws´ outer wall was seen, and this responded in a greater growth rate. A very low or negative net growth in these cows resulted in shorter claws and steeper claw angle and a convex sole shape. When rubber equipped feed stalls were used together with mastic asphalt, wear was reduced, net growth was positive and the remarkable loss of the concavity was reduced. Rubber mats on walking areas and feed places resulted in a lower growth and wear rate, an increased net growth, and resulted in a concave sole conformation similar to what is seen in grazed cattle. The growth and wear on aged, smooth concrete, slatted floor was similar to rubber flooring. No or little differences of the conformation of medial claws were observed between the different flooring systems.

Generally, only a few associations between flooring system, claw conformation, lameness and lesions were found in the present study. This might be a result of low prevalence of claw lesions during the study time. Scrapers on top of a concrete slatted floor (comparing with slats without scrapers) and a solid rubber floor (comparing with solid mastic asphalt) decreased the risk of lameness. Feed-stalls decreased the risk of lameness in cows of second parity. Claws with sole haemorrhages were likely to be longer and having a lower angle and claws with white line haemorrhages were characterised by a higher concavity of the claw sole. Hygiene and behaviour was shown to be altered with flooring system. Scrapers on slatted flooring significantly improved the floor hygiene. Feed stalls improved the floor hygiene on the slatted flooring without scrapers. With the present housing design, management and feeding strategy, feed-stalls resulted in increased feeding-time, and decreased competition and displacement.

Foot bath:
A seven percentage copper-sulphate solution on a hoof mat applied twice daily the risk of heel-horn erosion and digital dermatitis, increased the probability of improvement of feet with lesions initially, and decreased the risk of new or aggravated lesions during treatment. On the other hand, the study provided no evidence of an effect of a foam bath containing peracetic acid during on heel-horn erosion, digital dermatitis or interdigital hyperplasia.

Soft, hygienic and non slippery flooring with a moderate wear of the claws is possible to establish with present flooring systems and thereby improve the dairy cows´ locomotion comfort, health and welfare. Well managed foot baths can reduce the occurrence of infectious claw diseases in an infected herd but optimizing hygiene by the management system is of most importance. Rubber flooring, solid or slatted, showed benefits in many aspects but a combination of different floor surfaces may be optimal to balance claw growth.

Related information

Reported by

Swedish University of Agriculture
PO Box 234
532 23 Skara
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