Lameness in animals creates several issues that impact cow health and production. Bottom line: Lameness affects your profitability. Most cows spend between 10 and 12 hours a day on their feet, so be sure to give your herd a “leg up” by creating a safe environment to walk confidently in. Winter months especially can create extra challenges with ice and hard, frozen ground.
There are a variety of flooring options to choose from, and given your operation layout and traffic flow, you may need to use a combination of several options to provide the best environment for cattle. For example, by the food and water, animals will spend time standing around, grazing and chewing cud. Perhaps here might be a place to have a softer, textured material like rubber for them to stand on. However, by the shoots or milking platforms, where cows are moving more quickly, perhaps a textured concrete will work better.
Types of Flooring:
Poured Concrete – This is an inexpensive, versatile and durable form of flooring. If going with this option, experts recommend adding some sort of pattern, texture, or grove to increase the traction for animals, without being over abrasive to their hooves.
Concrete can be stamped with templates while it’s being poured. The concrete will then cure with the groves in place. Slatted concrete is another option that offers excellent drainage from urine and manure slurry from cattle.
Rubber Flooring – There are a variety of recycled rubber items to use for flooring in a dairy setting. In-place rubber flooring similar to a high school track material, that needs to be embedded into a solid foundation (concrete). It is a melted substance with rubber chunks and a resin that gets poured on site.
Reclaimed rubber belts are excellent for soft flooring. They can be cut into strips and weaved into a textured pattern for traction. However, sometimes these belts are reinforced with wires, which can come loose and hurt hooves. Rubber mats or rolls are textured but do not have interior wires to potentially injure cattle. Rubber in general is softer and more comfortable for animals to walk on, reducing join stress.
However, rubber flooring has some drawbacks. It is often more difficult to clean. The fasteners that hold the rubber in place can often break or wear quickly due to corrosive manure and urine chemicals, machinery driving over for cleaning, and heavy traffic from animals.
Additives – Dry Shake mix is an item that can be purchased and applied at the time of concrete installation. The mix goes over the uncured concrete and partially embeds to offer traction. Professionals can then finish texturing the floor. While this is a good alternative, it must be applied with care, if it is not applied properly, the floor can remain too rough and excessively wear hooves down.
Epoxy floor coatings are a high cost, yet high quality alternative. It’s best to use this in smaller traffic areas, where traffic can be avoided for several days to prep, apply, and allow to cure. The epoxy helps create traction on otherwise smooth surfaces, which can greatly reduce falling or tripping.
No matter what method you choose, be sure to do your research and find the best materials for your operation at a cost you can afford.
“Effects of Flooring on Lameness in Dairy Cattle.” American Dairymen
Gooch, Curt. “Flooring Considerations for Dairy Cows.” Extension.org
Schlegel, Danielle. “Getting off on the right foot: Rubber flooring and your operation.” Progressive Cattleman