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An evaluation of mattresses and mats in two dairy units

By S. J. Chaplin, G. Tierney, C. Stockwell, D. N. Logue, M. Kelly

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In order to investigate the relative merits of mats and mattresses in terms of cow comfort, production and performance, 29 cows were housed on ethylethene vinyl acetate mats and 29 on mattresses of loose rubber crumb with a polypropylene cover, at each of 2 similar dairy units of the Scottish Agricultural College. Both mats and mattresses were newly installed at the start of the trial. The cows were housed in the autumn after calving. Milk yield was recorded daily. Cows were weighed and scored for body condition, locomotion, dirtiness and hock and knee injury at fortnightly intervals. Feed offered was recorded daily and refusals were weighed weekly. Monthly milk records of milk yield, milk composition and somatic cell count data were available for both herds. In addition, 24 h behavioural observations of 15 core cows in each group were made at weeks 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 16, and 32 post-housing. There was no difference between cows on mats and mattresses in milk yield, composition or quality; in feed intake; in weight loss or body condition score; in severe hock or knee injury, or in the incidence of lameness. Cows on mattresses tended to have slightly higher total dirtiness scores than those on mats (7.06 vs. 6.95, P=0.074) and had dirtier udders (mattress, 7.50 vs. mat, 6.52, P<0.05). However, over the whole housing period, cows on mattresses spent longer feeding, ruminating and lying and a greater proportion of their lying time was spent ruminating. They spent less time standing doing nothing (idling) than cows on mats and less time idling in cubicles. Cows on mattresses appeared to adapt to housing more quickly than those on mats. Overall, neither mat nor mattress gave advantages in terms of production or performance, cows were slightly cleaner on mats but behavioural indices suggest that cow comfort was greater on mattresses.

Date 2000
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 66
Issue 4
Pages 263-272
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(99)00100-8
Language English
Author Address Dairy Health Unit, Scottish Agricultural College Veterinary Science Division, Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5AE, Scotland, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal husbandry
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Body condition
  8. Body weight
  9. British Isles
  10. Cattle
  11. Commonwealth of Nations
  12. Dairy animals
  13. Developed countries
  14. Europe
  15. Feeding behavior
  16. Feed intake
  17. Floors
  18. Great Britain
  19. Hygiene
  20. Lameness
  21. Litter
  22. Locomotion
  23. Mammals
  24. Mats
  25. Milk and dairy products
  26. OECD countries
  27. peer-reviewed
  28. Ruminants
  29. somatic cell count
  30. trauma
  31. United Kingdom
  1. peer-reviewed