Dairy Cattle - Lameness (PB4020)

Straw Yards

With loose housing in straw yards, lying space with easy access should be available to enable all cows to lie down without difficulty. Sufficient straw should be used to maintain a dry bed and care should be taken to avoid excess through narrow access routes which become wet and fouled. Water troughs should be sited away from the bedded area.

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A long rectangular yard is preferred as it allows a concrete trip for feeding/watering and loafing with easy access from the long side onto the bedded area. This layout avoids unnecessary walking and disturbance to other cows on the bedded area, allowing maximum lying times.

These points are important in the maintenance of a clean, dry bedded area as they reduce poaching and the amount of dung and urine falling onto the bed. Suitable space allowances are required so that the cows are not overcrowded.

As with cubicles, many straw yards have not been adapted to take into account the increasing size of cows. With modern breeding and the Holstein influence, the bedded area required is now in the region of 6.5m2 .

Smaller breeds, eg Channel Island, will require between 5 and 5.5m2. In addition, straw yard areas require a concrete feed/loafing area with 2.5m2 space normally required per cow. Straw usage will typically be in the region of 3 tonnes per cow per winter.


Whatever the housing and feeding system, slurry needs to be removed frequently from all concrete areas. This should be a minimum of twice daily. Cows prefer to walk on clean surfaces and actually change the way they walk when slurry is deeper than 5cm.

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Where grooving is not practical, sand can be used to prevent slipping

Concrete floored areas, both rough and smooth, can cause problems. Rough and broken concrete can cause abrasion of the sole and puncture wounds.
Care should be taken when laying new concrete to use the correct mix and properly graded aggregates. Whilst the final surface should provide grip, it should be tamped to a finish which will not cause damage to feet. Repair to broken concrete should be made using concrete or non-slip epoxy materials.
Worn, smooth concrete can cause slipping, leading to bruising of the sole and to other foot and leg damage. Where concrete has become worn, grooving can reduce the risk of injury to cows.
Good results have been obtained by cutting grooves 40mm apart which run at right angles to the direction of cow movements.

These provide These provide better resistance than grooves which run parallel to the direction of cow traffic. A grooved finish on new concrete is recommended and the latest evidence suggests that a honeycomb pattern (hexagonal grooves 10mm deep, 12mm wide with 46mm between grooves) provides equally good slip resistance in all directions but without unacceptable high pressure upon the hoof.

In milking parlours carborundum dust as the final floor finish provides long lasting, very good slip resistance, but the floor is still able to be easily and readily cleaned to comply with hygiene regulations.

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