Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Double the width, double the welfare?

Our lab is currently working with Dairy Farmers of Canada on the proAction® initiative to develop a series of experiments, which will provide recommendations to producers on tie-stall design. These experiments will test varying aspects (width, length, neck rail position, chain length, etc.) of the tie-stall to see how they impact the cow and her ability to use her space within the tie-stall. Véronique Boyer and Erika Edwards’ started their project on June 5, 2017, which focuses on cows’ ease of movement with varying tie-stall widths. There are 2 treatments within the project: providing one tie-stall to the cow or two tie-stalls, which will double the width of the stall. We have collected data pertaining to cow ease of movement and space use (position within the stall, quality of lying and rising, number of contacts with the stall), production (milk volume and components), housing (stall cleanliness and bedding softness), and health measures (injuries, lameness, rumination time, feeding, etc.). 
A new measure related to rest has been added to the array of variables already recorded- namely lying time, number of lying bouts, and average duration of lying bouts. A dairy cow spends 12-14 hours/day resting, which makes it critical to provide adequate housing and space to ensure positive well-being. While it is key for a cow to be able to rest, there may also be some importance to what posture she is in while resting. It has been speculated that a cow’s ability to rest in certain postures has an effect on her comfort and welfare. Therefore, a portion of this project will also concentrate on what resting postures a cow assumes based on the stall width she is provided with. We predict cows provided with a wider stall will utilize this extra space by spending more time resting and assuming more relaxed resting postures. These results will allow us to provide recommendations to producers on tie-stall width and which cows may need to be provided with more space (i.e. special needs cows, older cows, etc.). By understanding how the tie-stall impacts the cow, we can improve her ease of movement in the short term and improve housing, production and health in the long term. 

Cow resting in a single width stall


Cow utilizing the extra space provided to her while resting in a double width stalls

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