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Cows Have Flooring Preferences at Calving

01 July 2014

Rubber mats may not be the best flooring for maternity pens, according to a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Since calving is the ultimate goal of a reproductive program—and is also a period when actions can impact the following reproductive cycle—it makes sense to carefully manage this event and make improvements when possible, writes the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council.

A recent study published in the February at the University of British Columbia investigated the flooring preference of Holstein dairy cows housed individually in maternity pens during the 30 hours before calving.

Seventeen multiparous cows were moved, on average, two days before expected calving date into an individual maternity pen with three different flooring surfaces: sand, pebble-top rubber mats or concrete flooring, each covered with about 6 inches of straw.

Results showed lying bouts increased during the hours closest to calving, regardless of flooring. The number of lying bouts did not differ between flooring types precalving, but cows had more lying bouts on sand and concrete compared with rubber at calving.

Cows spent more time lying down on sand and concrete compared with rubber precalving, but lying times did not differ between treatments at calving.

Cows that calved on sand spent more time lying on sand at calving compared with the other two flooring types. Cows that calved on concrete did not show a flooring preference at calving.

These results indicate that rubber mats are the least preferred by dairy cows in the maternity pens, even when covered with a deep layer of straw.

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