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New recommendations for self-locking barriers to reduce skin injuries in dairy cows

Abstract : The design of self-locking barriers can affect cows’ skin injuries and impair welfare. This study aimed to propose and refine recommendations, expressed relatively to the cows’ dimensions, for self-locking barrier design to reduce risks for skin injuries on the neck/shoulder/back and on carpus of dairy cows. We recorded individual body dimensions and the dimensions of self-locking barriers (e.g. top rail height) and assessed skin injuries on 3801 cows from 131 loose-housing dairy farms. We explored the significant associations between presence/absence of skin injuries and self-locking barrier dimensions using weighted multivariable logistic regression, taking into account the diversity of feeding barriers within each farm. The robustness of the models was assessed by cross-validation. Cows had skin injuries mainly on the neck/shoulder/back (29.0%) and, to a lesser extent, on the carpus (14.0%). The final multivariable logistic regression models comprised 13 factors for skin injuries on the neck/shoulder/back, and 11 factors for skin injuries on the carpus. Skin injuries were significantly reduced when the self-locking barriers were inclined (neck/shoulder/back) and when the cows used a feeding table (i.e. flat) instead of a feeding manger or cribs (i.e. hollow) (carpus). A top rail height >1.05 × cow height (measured at withers) was significantly associated with fewer skin injuries on the neck/shoulder/back and on carpus. Skin injuries on the neck/shoulder/back and carpus were significantly reduced when the bottom rail was on the food side relative to the wall, and at a height <0.39 of cow height. Skin injuries were significantly less frequent when the separation wall had no sharp edges on the food side (neck/shoulder/back), was >0.4 of cow height (carpus), was thinner than 15 cm (neck/shoulder/back and carpus) and when the height of the feeding step was 0.04 to 0.1 of cow height (neck/shoulder/back) and the length of the feeding step was <0.2 of cow length (carpus). A headlock articulation nut positioned between 0.62 and 0.78 of cow height significantly reduced skin injuries on the neck/shoulder/back. Here, by combining the diversity of on-farm self-locking barriers and their respective dimensions, we were able to refine the International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering recommendations for self-locking barrier design and to propose new ones. This information now needs to be confirmed on other datasets, but can already help farmers and dairy industry stakeholders improve the design of self-locking barriers to improve dairy cow welfare.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02528942
Contributor : Sabine Rossi <>
Submitted on : Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 9:11:40 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, March 20, 2021 - 8:18:01 AM

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Romain Lardy, Alice de Boyer Des Roches, J. Capdeville, R. Bastien, Luc Mounier, et al.. New recommendations for self-locking barriers to reduce skin injuries in dairy cows. animal, Published by Elsevier (since 2021) / Cambridge University Press (until 2020), 2020, 14 (8), pp.1745-1756. ⟨10.1017/S175173112000052X⟩. ⟨hal-02528942⟩

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