Give cows some space and lower slurry levels

The design and management of dairy cow housing can go a long way to help reduce slurry ponding and hence lameness issues, consultant Mike Kelly told a Dairy Show seminar.

Ultimately, cows needed space and the layout should be kept simple, he said.

“Provide at least 4sq m of total standing area excluding cubicles, with feed passages 4m wide and access passes a minimum of 3m wide.

More space means less dung per square metre.”

Also, passes shouldn’t be laid flat, Mr Kelly stressed.

“They should slope down the length of the building by at least 1.5%, but preferably 3%.

A constant slope is particularly important for a flush wash system.”

Poor levels between buildings could also risk ponding, he added.

For easy cleaning, the key was to get the cubicle step area right, with a maximum step height of 200mm and a generous cubicle length.

“The feed area should provide a 700mm feed face for a large cow and for automatic scraping, consider a raised step for front feet, which allows cows to stand and raise only their back feet as the scraper passes,” he said.

For flat sites, Dr Kelly advised producers to consider drained floors to avoid ponding.

But ultimately floors should be kept in good condition with a regular maintenance programme.

“Any slippery floors should be grooved and avoid tight turns or steep ramps.”