OJAS  Vol.5 No.2 , April 2015
Compost Barns for Dairy Cows—Aspects of Animal Welfare
Abstract: Compost barns for dairy cows are showing increased popularity also in Central Europe. A compost barn is used mainly as a two-area system with a bedded lying area and a solid feeding alley. Sawdust or dry fine wood shavings or wood chips are mostly used as bedding material, which has to be stirred twice a day. Stirring aerates and mixes faeces and urine into the bedding material, the mixture decomposes by means of aerobic microorganisms. A joint research project between the Agricultural Research and Education Centre Raumberg-Gumpenstein (HBLFA) and the Institute for Sustainability Sciences Tänikon (ISS) analyzed amongst other things, the cleanliness of the animals, integument alterations, lying behaviour and the current lameness situation of animals. A total of 138 cows were examined on five Austrian dairy farms. All cows were visually scored and animal behaviour was observed by data loggers as well as by direct observation. The mean value concerning cleanliness of animals was 0.44, while the udder was the cleanest and the lower leg the dirtiest area. Only a few lesions in carpal and tarsal joints could be found. Cows showed no differences in lying behaviour between times of day and temperatures. Large differences in lying behaviour were evident among farms. While on the compost barn farms only around 25% of all cows were scored to be lame, on cubicle-housing system farms 31% - 46% of the cows fell into that category (p < 0.001). From the present results, the compost barn can be seen as an animal-friendly system. In further investigations other factors affecting animal health and to resolve any outstanding issues concerning economy and alternative litter materials should be analyzed.
Cite this paper: Ofner-Schröck, E. , Zähner, M. , Huber, G. , Guldimann, K. , Guggenberger, T. and Gasteiner, J. (2015) Compost Barns for Dairy Cows—Aspects of Animal Welfare. Open Journal of Animal Sciences, 5, 124-131. doi: 10.4236/ojas.2015.52015.

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