29 March 2002

Visibly clean cows with new cubicle mats and scrapers

COW cleanliness has been improved on one Herefordshire-based unit by switching from straw cubicles to mats and fitting automatic scrapers.

Before new floors and automatic scrapers were fitted two years ago, there was extensive pooling of urine and dung, Hugh Black told producers at the MDC meeting. "Many cows had wet tails causing problems with cow cleanliness and mastitis."

Cubicles were upgraded from straw bedding to mats and sawdust. Sawdust is used to keep mats dry, while mats provide comfort. "Cows are now visibly cleaner and somatic cell counts average 170,000 cells/ml with no more than two active cases of mastitis at any one time."

The reason why cubicle cleanliness is so crucial is modern cows are 12-times more susceptible to infection, said Glos-based vet Roger Blowey.

"Cows have been bred for greater milk flow rates. This has doubled over the last 20 years, resulting in a larger teat opening through which infection can gain entry."

Another common problem is milk leaking from teats onto cubicle beds and providing the perfect conditions for mastitis causing bacteria to grow. Mr Blowey believes sand is an ideal bedding material as it is inert and doesnt support bacterial growth.

But Mr Black was unable to find any local contractors which were willing to handle slurry containing sand. However, using sawdust still causes problems for slurry handling as it makes it thicker, requiring dilution with dirty water, he said

Since adopting cubicle mats and sawdust, hock damage is no longer seen, says Hugh Black.