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Evaluating a Novel Free-Stall Design: Modifying Structure and Microclimate to Improve Dairy Cow Rest and Stall Use

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Title: Evaluating a Novel Free-Stall Design: Modifying Structure and Microclimate to Improve Dairy Cow Rest and Stall Use
Author: Wilson, Angela
Department: Department of Animal Biosciences
Program: Animal and Poultry Science
Advisor: Osborne, Vern
Abstract: Free-stalls are an important area of dairy production where cow comfort should be maximized. Comfortable free-stalls contribute to the cows’ ability to achieve adequate rest, and free-stall design has been shown to be an important determinant of health and production. However, free-stalls are generally designed to promote cleanliness and reduce the labour required for maintenance by restricting cow behaviour. The overall objective of this thesis was to evaluate a novel free-stall designed to improve resting behaviour that includes an increased stall slope, minimal stall partitioning, a heat abatement system, and supplemental lighting. The first experiment compared a standard stall slope of 4.5% to an increased slope of 9.3%. Lying time and rumination time were slightly less when cows were housed on the increased slope, but the biological relevance of these differences were considered negligible. No differences were noted in cow cleanliness, milk production, or preference between the two slope treatments. In a follow-up study, the standard stall partitions were replaced with a minimal partitioning design and the neck rail was removed. Cows spent marginally less time overall lying in these novel stalls and had fewer lying bouts of longer duration. Cows preferred standing in novel stalls, but the novel stalls were dirtier. The next experiment tested a supplemental cooling system to address the effect of the thermal environment on stall use and cow behaviour. Cooled air and mist were delivered from the stall posts to facilitate evaporative cooling via the respiratory system. The mist treatment marginally reduced respiration rate compared to cooled air and no cooling (control). No effects were observed on lying behaviour, rectal temperatures, milk production, or rumination. However, the environmental temperatures were relatively low, and cows were likely not subjected to heat stress. The final experiment investigated short-term preferences for light-emitting diode (LED) lights in the stall area. Cows showed no preference for lying down under full-spectrum (white), yellow-green, or blue LED lights. Overall, the novel stall design components were acceptable to cows and did not negatively affect short-term behaviour or production. Further modifications and testing are required. This thesis provides insight into improving free-stall use.
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10214/26676
Date: 2022-01
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Related Publications: Wilson, A.M., Wright, T.C., Cant, J.T., Osborne, V.R., 2022. Development of a novel stall design for dairy cattle: Part I. The effect of an increased slope on lying behavior, rumination, cleanliness, and preference. Animal 16, 100427. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2021.100427Wilson, A.M., Wright, T.C., Cant, J.T., Osborne, V.R., 2022. Development of a novel stall design for dairy cattle: Part II. The effect of minimal stall partitioning on lying behavior, rumination, stall cleanliness, and preference. Animal 16, 100428. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2021.100428


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