Off-paddock wintering facilities need loafing surfaces that meet animal welfare requirements. Our objectives were to establish relationships between dairy cow behaviour and firmness (comfort) and traction (non-slip) across four different loafing surfaces. The four surfaces were post peelings (woodchip), a 50 mm shredded rubber playground surface with 6 mm geotextile overlay (NUMAT), a 25 mm rubber and plastic chip sports turf underlay with 6 mm geotextile overlay (Tiger Turf), and 25 mm × 1 m2 interlocking rubber matting (NUMAT). Average daily cow lying times were 11.5, 11.0, 10.5 and 8.0 hours/day for post peelings, shredded rubber, rubber/plastic chip, and rubber matting, respectively. A Clegg hammer impact soil tester (2.25 kg) used for mechanical measures of firmness (comfort) showed a strong negative curvilinear relationship with lying times. A Rotational Traction Tester for measuring traction (non-slip) indicated the least to most slippery surface was post peelings followed by shredded rubber, rubber/plastic chip, and finally, rubber matting, which aligned with anecdotal observations of slipping events. Threshold values for these mechanical tests are proposed that will help with evaluating innovative surfaces for cow comfort without the need for animal trials.

PC, Beukes, B Dela Rue, DE Dalley, and D McCall

New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production, Volume 82, Online, 22-27, 2022
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