By Brett Davidson

TWO recent examples have made me think about the role flooring performs in cow comfort and welfare.
There is an abundance of research which has established that soft flooring improves livestock welfare and increases production and profit – but these real-life examples really brought it home to me.
In the first instance, my livestock carrier replaced the mesh flooring on his truck with heavy duty rubber matting and has been impressed by the results. The new matting is quieter, gives the cows more secure footing and is easy to clean.
This carrier also placed rubber matting on his metal loading ramps, because having a shiny and noisy metal surface was causing cattle to frequently baulk. Having the addition of rubber matting, which has a similar look of a dirt floor and feels secure under foot, has given cattle confidence that what they are walking on, was sound.
He found the rubber matting inside his truck makes cattle more comfortable, being less likely to turn around once loaded, and made much less noise. In fact, he said, they moved around so little during transport and were so quiet, he had to get out and check everything was ok.
Other benefits he observed included, the cattle are less stressed, there is less manure being deposited in his truck, and the new matting is quick and easy to clean.
Happier cows and a happier carrier!
In the second instance, a farmer contacted me about an ongoing issue with cattle having to be pushed past an area in his new dairy with a poor exit design.
It’s a familiar story – the dairy has narrow right angle corners with a deep drain which causes the cattle to stop and hold up the herd from leaving the dairy.
The farmer had to constantly leave the parlour to push animals out and then to avoid stepping on the drain they leap over it and often slip.
The rubber matting will not fix the poor design of the drain, but by placing matting either side of the drain the cows will at least have more confidence in their footing and perhaps step over it more easily by themselves.
Even if they still hurdle the obstacle, they will have a securer landing and much less chance of injury.
Unfortunately, a lot of cattle infrastructure is a compromise between the constraints of an area, or budget, and cow behaviour.
Rubber matting can be a cheap way to resolve concreted engineering problems causing issues with cow flow and slipping.
The latest, well designed rubber matting is durable, lasting up to 10 years – or four years in high traffic areas – and that could equal four years of more comfortable, calmer cows, less slipping and fewer injuries.
Are there areas in your system that would benefit from better flooring? Perhaps you can experiment with small areas to see for yourself the advantages of more comfortable animals, at a lower risk of injury.
For more information or to discuss the above information, contact Brett Davidson on 0407 938 065 or brett.davidson@ecodev.vic.gov.au
– Brett Davidson is Ag Vic’s Dairy Services Regional Manager.