Although much work has been done to investigate the effects of various environmental factors on animal health and performance, seldom was the effect of the house floor taken into account.
In this article we review some flooring systems used for cattle kept indoors and the advantage of each system in terms of animal health, behaviour and performance compared to the traditional concrete floors.
Poor concrete surfaces cause a high incidence of lameness, sole ulcer, and white line disease. Much of these problems may, however, be alleviated with the fine line between a concrete floor surface that is too rough and causes injury due to abrasion and one that is too smooth and causes injury because of inadequate footing. The other factors contributing to these problems such as genetics, nutrition, and environment should in the meantime be duly considered.
2 theories exist regarding the grooved concrete:
In a study conducted at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, it was found that covering the floors of the barns with sheets of soft rubber that mimics the soil of the pastures helps to achieve the following advantages compared to solid concrete floors:
Also read: Give the cows some rest
When using sand as a bedding material, 2 points should be considered:
With sand bedding, animals tend to rest for more than 12 hours per day. In terms of animal health, the sand provides superior cushioning for knees and hocks with 42% less lameness and 75% fewer hock abrasions compared with other bedding material such as the sawdust. Further, bacterial counts in inorganic bedding such as sand are typically lower than those in organic bedding material. In one study, the prevalence of E. coli was 1.4% in sand bedding compared to 3.1% in an organic material such as sawdust. Economically, the sand is relatively cheap and readily available compared to many other bedding materials, especially when used in areas near beaches and rivers.
Also read: Lameness management when using AMS
Bedding with crop residues such as wheat straw may provide substantial benefits during periods of the year when cold stress can cause increased maintenance requirements and decreased performance (Table 1).
The straw material also acts as a sponge and retains a large amount of urine which is the main source of ammonia, thereby reducing health problems and pollution of the environment. Economically, an additional value is captured from the extra nutrients in the manure which is used for fertiliser, either in the raw or composted state. If the cost of N is $ 0.66/kg and the use of bedding can retain extra 3.2kg of N per ton of fresh manure then a producer can realise about $ 2.10 more N fertiliser value per ton of manure. These estimates were made around 13 years ago but may follow the same trends when adjusted to the current price situation.
Several flooring systems have been developed for supporting animal comfort, health, and production and facilitating animal management indoors. Each of these systems has its own advantages but may be disadvantageous if improperly used or selected. The choice of any of these systems depends largely on the cost, climatic condition, availability of the floor material to be used, and its capacity to meet specific health and production targets. It also depends on the production level of cattle and whether they are economically responsive so as to justify the costs invested in each floor system.
References are available from the author upon request (firstname.lastname@example.org).