Thinking about installing cubicles? Here’s what you need to know…

With the end of the grazing season fast approaching, many dairy farmers have begun getting their housing facilities ready or are putting the finishing touches to a new cubicle shed for the housing period.

In addition, this year, there have been many new dairy entrants. Therefore, a lot of new cubicle sheds have been installed, or are in the process of being designed on farms.

If this is the case, a few points should be taken note of with regard to the design of the cubicle and the lying down and getting up behaviour of cows.

Lying down has a very high priority among cattle. Dairy cows prefer to lie down when ruminating. A cow normally lies down for between 10 and 14 hours per day.

Therefore, it is important that the cubicle is designed properly for the animal’s comfort and ease of movement.

Recommendations

The recommendation is to have one cubicle per cow in the herd. Cubicles must provide a solid and comfortable resting place.

The design of cubicles should provide a clean, dry and deformable bed, as well as making sure that it is easy for the cow to lie down and get up again.

Cubicles consist of a resting area and an unobstructed opening towards the front for the cow to thrust her head through when she rises and lies down.

The general recommended features and dimensions of cubicles are listed below; however, some would argue that not all cubicles in the shed should be of the same size as there will always be bigger and smaller cows in the herd.

What is the benefit?

It is important that considerable time and thought is put into designing a cubicle shed.

Research carried out by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry shows that for every extra hour lying time (up to 12-14 hours), cows will produce one litre of extra milk per day, with the same amount of feed inputs.

Image source: EASYFIX

This is largely due to better blood flow to the udder in a lying cow (the heart is level with the udder) compared with a standing cow.

In addition, comfortable beds promote better rumination and reduce lameness (sole bruising and sole ulcers) due to reduced pressure on the feet.

It is very common for lying times to be nine hours (or less) in cubicles. This equates to three-to-five litres of milk lost a day per cow.

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