JOURNAL ARTICLE

Monitoring indices of cow comfort in free-stall-housed dairy herds

N B Cook, T B Bennett, K V Nordlund
Journal of Dairy Science 2005, 88 (11): 3876-85
16230693
Indices of cow comfort are used widely by consultants in the dairy industry, with a general understanding that they are representative of lying behavior. This study examines the influence of stall base type (sand or a geotextile mattress filled with rubber crumbs) and time of measurement on 4 indices of comfort collected at hourly intervals in 12 herds, aligned by morning and afternoon milking. Stall base type significantly influenced all indices of comfort. For example, the least squares mean (SE) cow comfort index (proportion of cows touching a stall that are lying down) was 0.76 (0.015) in herds with mattresses compared with 0.86 (0.015) in herds with sand stalls. Significant hourly variation was also identified suggesting that timing of measurement is important. None of the indices of cow comfort derived from the high-yielding group pen was associated with the mean 24-h lying time of 10 sentinel cows whose time budgets were known in each herd. However, the cow comfort index was associated with the herd mean 24-h stall standing time, with the strongest relationships occurring 2 h before the morning and afternoon milking, when stall base type did not significantly influence the association. When measured at these times, we recommend use of the stall standing index (proportion of cows touching a stall that are standing), with values greater than 0.20 being associated with abnormally long herd mean stall standing times greater than 2 h/d.

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