PLAN AHEAD TO MAKE IT MONEY WELL SPENT
WHAT should producers look for when investing in cubicles and cubicle carpets? ADAS dairy consultant Ian Ohnstad provides some tips for those looking to invest, encouraging them to think about it a year in advance.
With quality assurance schemes insisting on higher welfare standards and many inadequate cubicles around, producers may be faced with having to upgrade cow accommodation.
But the decision about whether to invest or leave the industry needs to be carefully considered, warns Mr Ohnstad. "You need to make sure that the business can stand investment and that it is planned." For some producers, the best decision will be to get out of dairying, he believes.
Equally, inadequate existing housing may be costly, through impaired cow welfare. "Poor housing can lead to increased levels of mastitis, lower fertility and lameness," he says.
There are many factors to consider in cubicle design. "Ventilation is very important. It improves the animals environment which can help to reduce diseases such as mastitis."
Airflow in and out of the building needs to be adequate and not restricted by other buildings, he adds. "A good indicator of inadequate ventilation is a high level of cobwebs in buildings. This shows that air movement is restricted."
Care is also needed over heel steps. "When heel steps are too high, the cow can damage her heels when she steps down. Where they are too low, cows can be scraped by passing tractors. The ideal height is about 7in."
Cubicle carpets enhance cow comfort further, but choose them for best results. "Producers looking to purchase cubicle carpets should go and look at examples on-farm.
"You need to see them in their working clothes, preferably when cows are housed. This may mean looking 12 months before you want to purchase," advises Mr Ohnstad.
Important characteristics to look out for include durability. "Mats should last for a minimum of five years but you should be able to expect 10. The bed beneath the mattress should be free-draining.
"Mattresses should be impermeable to prevent milk and urine from going inside. There should also be minimal movement of material within the mattress. Hollows in the bed collect milk and urine," he warns. *