Stalls

Cubicle box

There are many different stall designs, most of which will work well. It is very important to observe the cows’ reactions to stalls. Don’t just get out the tape measure, watch cows get up and down in the stalls, especially the largest cows.

stalls

Cows in a stall should rise to stand as they would outside on pasture. Cows need to bob their heads down and forward so that they can shift their weight from their back legs when they stand. In a stall, cows can either bob forward or to the side. It is difficult to give specific measurements for cubicles because of the size differences between dairy breeds and cows have also grown over the last 10 to 20 years. It is normally recommended that cows have at least 47cm of head space and 168crn of space for their body. On top of that, lunge space must be provided (at least 30cm). Therefore, the stall should be 245cm long unless cows are able to lunge forward into the space beyond the stall — such as into an opposite cow stall, alley or outside of the barn. If a stall is barely 215cm in total length, it must allow the cow to lunge sideways as she gets up. Bending the bottom of the stall loop out of the cow’s way (either higher or lower) will allow cows to lunge sideways. Install a brisket board on the stall floor.

Brisket boards should be 168cm from the stall curb and 15-20cm high with a 60 degree angle. They help prevent the cow from crowding to the front of the stall, brace her as she gets up and keeps the stall cleaner. The cubicle base should drop by 10 cm from front to rear to help drain­age, and should have a step of no more than approximately 18 — 20 cm down into the alleyway. This gives a slope of around 4% to the cubicle box. If the step is too low, the cubicles are more likely to become soiled or contaminated, particularly with the flushing systems used on large farms in the US.

Problems occur most often on farms that use old buildings to house their cows, or those that increase their herd size or continue to breed larger cows for higher production but never change the size of the stalls.

Uncomfortable stalls or bed surfaces are likely to result in less frequent or shorter resting periods and increased standing time on hard surfaces. As shown in a study by Galindo and Broom (2000), this alters cows’ natural behaviour cycles and overburdens their claws, potentially increasing structural hoof damage and making them more susceptible to sole, inter digital and heel lesions. If beds are uncomfortable, a cow may choose to lie in the alley way, exposing her to the risk of bacterial infection and mastitis. Stalls should be comfortable enough to encourage cows to lie down there rather than somewhere else.

If stalls are too small or the wrong shape, preventing cows from rising comfortably, they will delay trying to rise through fear of hurting themselves on a neck rail or by not having enough space to lunge using their head as a balance. These cows are therefore inclined to lie  too long, eat and drink less, go to the feed area less frequently and consequently consume less dry matter. This leads to a yo-yo feed intake pattern where individual meals are fewer but larger and cows will probably produce less milk. This can be associated with an increased risk of laminitis; to avoid this, cows should eat small meals often.

Other common problems with stalls that are the wrong shape, too small or have protruding curbs, are injuries and abrasions to the inside (or medial) of the hocks. If these are continually banged or rubbed on the curb, hair loss, open sores, swelling and infection can occur, often resulting in lameness. Use of bedding often helps to prevent this but it should be of good quality and regularly changed or cleaned.