Layouts for small freestall dairy barns: effect on milk yield for cows in different parities

G Næss, K E Bøe, O Osterås
Journal of Dairy Science 2011, 94 (3): 1256-64
Freestall housing for dairy cows has many different layouts and the space allocated for cows differs considerably. The objective of the present study was to investigate possible associations between barn layout and milk yield for different parities in small dairy freestall barns. Layouts of 204 Norwegian freestall barns constructed during the period from 1995 to 2005, and with a mean herd size of 42.7±15.5 cows, were obtained and merged with milk yield data and calving interval, for each parity, from the Norwegian Milk Recording System (NDHRS). The milk yield data set contained 20,221 different lactations from these 204 herds. Both simple mixed models, including the different explanatory variables one by one together with parity, calving interval, and herd as random effect, and a final mixed model, including all significant explanatory variables, were created. According to variables tested in this study, the final mixed model estimates show that only primiparous cows benefit significantly from increased free space allocation. Milk yield was generally higher in automatic milking system barns compared with that in barns with milking parlors, but not for primiparous cows. Milk yield was higher for all parities for barns using separation pens in accordance with the recommendations. Barns with 2 or more dead-end alleys had lower milk yield compared with that from layouts without dead-end alleys. Primiparous cows benefited from water troughs located for easy access and responded with increased milk yield. In 10% of the barns, the water trough capacity was less than 47% of the recommendations, and all parities benefited from a water trough capacity higher than this level. Higher parities had increased milk yield when water trough capacity was more than 80%. Feed bunk space, number of freestall rows, and the location of freestalls had no significant effect on the milk yield. The present study showed that increased space and improved access to water is beneficial to primiparous cows, whereas layouts without dead-end alleys and improved water capacity is beneficial for all cows in freestall systems.

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