7 June 1996

CHECK ON YOUR COWS COMFORT

By Jessica Buss

ASSESSING your cows winter environment while they are out at grass may help to improve yields and cow health next winter. Midlands ADAS consultant Alex Page suggests examining the housing now to allow time for alterations to be made. These improvements could help get more out of the cows. He recommends that a building review starts at the top with lighting. This is an area often overlooked.

"Good light should be available 22 hours a day," he says. "It can improve fertility and production and allows cows to eat at any time. But a rest period is also important when light should be reduced. Levels should be adjusted to allow shy cows to eat without being bullied, and provide enough light for cows to be inspected."

He advises fitting a time switch to turn off the main lights in the early hours.

Ventilation in the roof or by Yorkshire boarding must aim to keep cows cool but avoid draughts at cow level.

"Cows dont mind the cold and good ventilation reduces mastitis and keeps the atmosphere drier."

Improve ventilation

For older buildings with low roofs, he recommends improving ventilation by angle grinding slots on top of the corrugations.

Cow cubicles must allow space sharing, he claims.

"Newton Rigg cubicles may reduce the longevity of the cow and can be cow killers.

And when the central pillars in the cubicles are shiny it means cows are sliding down it causing hock damage."

He advises removing the rail which can cause hock and pin damage and adding a twisted rope to give the cows room to spread.

When housed in straw yards, how cows are kept clean and the space requirements for next winter must be considered, he claims. Each cow needs 5.6sq m (60sq ft) of lying space so that she can lie comfortably and ruminate plus a further 20sq ft of walking/feed area.

Cow beds must be kept dry. Upto 3t of straw a cow may be needed for bedding in yards compared with 1.5t for cubicles. Although straw use in cubicles may be reduced further by usinggood cow mats, some beddingwill still be needed, adds Mr Page.

Feeding space should allow all cows to eat at once. ADAS standards allow 0.7m (2ft 4in) a cow. This will give aggressive eaters that yield up to 10,000 litres enough time and space to eat.

Water supply is also important. Cows drink 75 to 100 litres (6-22gal) a day and can drink at a rate of 12-20 litres (2.6-4.4gal) a minute. &#42


ENVIRONMENT CHECK LIST

Tick

&#8226 Good light for 22hours a day.[ ]

&#8226 Ventilation without draughts.[ ]

&#8226 Beds that can bekept dry.[ ]

&#8226 Space sharing incubicles.[ ]

&#8226 Enough lying areain straw yards.[ ]

&#8226 Adequate feedspace a cow.[ ]

&#8226 Good water supplyand space.[ ]

Examine cow housing now to allow for alterations before next winter.