The perfect cubicle will always be a compromise between cow comfort, available building space and managing cows to prevent mastitis.
And the best way to arrive at the correct cubicles for your farm is to watch over them with a fresh pair of eyes, Martin Yeates of Kinshay told last week’s British Mastitis Conference.
“Most of the time, observing cows will tell you what is wrong, and right, with your buildings. The main problems are perching cows, cubicles that are too short, cows lying or standing diagonally, cows standing too far forward and a lack of brisket board,” he said.
Observing cows getting up and lying down shows they can need a space as large as 3m. Outlining some basic measurements, he explained an average commercial cow needs a cubicle about 2.75m long (wall facing cubicles) or 2.4m (head to head style). Beds should be 1.68m long, and neck rail height 1.26m as a general guide.
“The measurement of the diagonal line between the ground and the neck rail is the most common error in any buildings, old or new,” he said. “The standard 2m measurement is simply too small for modern dairy cow she needs at least 2.15m.”
When a number of cows are standing up in cubicles, and not lying, have damaged hocks or are excessively dirty, the chances are the cubicles need improving, he said. “Modifications need not be excessively expensive, much of the time small modifications will do the job.
“Looking specifically at cubicles and mastitis, the old adage of dirty feet and lower legs leading to more mastitis holds true,” Dr Yeates added. “Keeping passageways clean is essential and the scraping system should be regularly checked to ensure it is doing what it should.”
But there is no such thing as a perfect cubicle, he added. Observing cows’ behaviour, altering cubicles, possibly changing bedding type and ensuring good ventilation are the four key areas to pay attention to.