Improve Cow Longevity Starts with Quality Flooring

Published on Wed, 10/12/2022 - 2:55pm

Improving Cow Longevity Starts with Quality Flooring.

 By Jessica Graham.

 World-wide, lameness is the third biggest contributor to reduced productivity in dairy cattle. Dairies will quickly cull lame cattle as they know lameness almost always means less milk produced and a high probability of infertility. Luckily, most lameness can be prevented. It all starts with hoof care and comfort of the animal. Lameness in dairy cattle is directly related to flooring and flooring surfaces. We know taking care of your herd is directly correlated to the milk yield. The best ways to both prevent hoof problems, and promote herd health is to evaluate flooring.

Flooring Options
When it comes to flooring, you might be wondering what the best options are. Top notch products offer some cushion and traction. Having pasture availability is often preferred. However, pasture is often a limiting factor in dairies. In most barns, you will find concrete as the flooring choice. Concrete is suitable as it is durable, lasts a long time, and it is easy to clean.

Nevertheless, cement is hard on animal joints and hooves, and attributes to inflammation and stress. Additionally, concrete can be slippery and contributes to mild and major injuries in cattle. You can, of course, have grooves and patterned designs in concrete to offer some added traction. However, improper grooves and cutting can be hard on hooves. For optimal animal health and performance, evaluate the quality of your flooring in barns, walkways, work areas, and parlors.

When it comes to flooring options, quality rubber flooring is a necessity. Not all rubber is created equally, so you want to make sure the rubber you are using is tried and true. Heavy and dense virgin rubber is needed for walkways. You want to avoid spongy rubber in high trafficked areas. Additionally, some rubber mats use recycled materials. The recycled materials will likely show wear and tear quicker than those that do not contain recycled materials. The more recycled materials, the more likely the mats smell like an old tire too.

When it comes to flooring for large areas, large rolled mats provide sufficient flooring. You might look at Agri-Comfort’ Huber Technik rolled rubber flooring. The rolled rubber flooring can be cut to customized lengths. Large rolls, like Agri Diamond’s rolled rubber flooring, are perfect for high impact heavy traffic areas. Big seamless mats will reduce the flexing of joints and slipping of individual mats.

However, large rolled mats are not compatible everywhere. In these places you will likely need smaller interlocking mats. Consider Agri-Comfort for instance, the company has interlocking 4x6 mats (double button and hammer top) which can be modified for each producers’ individual needs. These mats have a grooved underside that allow for drainage and add flex to absorb heavy foot concussion. You might also consider Easyfix mats. They offer a series of slat mats available in a variety of sizes for your dairy. The mats offer reinforced designs with durability and comfort for improved performance and welfare of animals being housed on concrete slats.

Agri-Comfort has developed rolled flooring specific to areas in most need of comfort and slip resistant flooring. The N15 walkway roll is an ideal parlor floor, whereas the N18 walkway flooring is ideal for alleys to provide comfort and sure footing.  The company’s N20 and N33 rolls provide even higher shock absorption for increased comfort in stall applications.
Some consumers have switched to rubber flooring in milking parlors. Rubber aids in reduced noise and echo and also provides better traction when compared to concrete. Rubber matting in the milking parlor also leads to quicker milking times for cattle. Careful positioning of rubber can also encourage cows to move from the collecting yard into the parlor, which speeds up the milking process.

Economic Impacts of Flooring
It’s estimated that replacement cow costs allocate about 20% of any dairy’s budget. We’ve already discussed the impact a lame cow has on the operation. However, some other factors are a little harder to measure.  According to Mary Garvey, author of a scholarly article Lameness in Dairy Cow Herds: Disease Aetiology, Prevention and Management, dairies with higher lameness have about a 3% increase in mortality. She goes on to explain poor flooring can lead to chronic pain and heart problems in cattle. Once your dairy starts to have increased mortality factors, investing in rubber flooring begins to look more attractive.

The economic ramifications of poor flooring can be hard to measure because each cow’s health can be affected differently. A cardiovascular problem resulting from chronic stress from cement is hard to detect until you have a pre-mature fatality. By this time, it is too late and the economic impact means backfilling the cow with a replacement either by calving or purchasing a new cow. You can visibly see a cow limping from hoof pain caused by stress from hard flooring and that is easier to determine the impact your flooring is having on your operation. However, flooring should be viewed as an investment. You’re investing in the longevity of your herd, and investing in higher milk production potential from your cattle.

Lameness leads to higher incidences of culling, higher veterinary and medicinal costs, lost milk production, delayed reproduction and inevitably, lost profit. When it comes to assessing the budget on your dairy, changing the flooring is an investment you should consider sooner rather than later. The economic benefits include: reducing lameness, improving cow longevity, and increasing milk production. You can reap the benefits of the investment now and continue to advance your farming operation.