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Effects of Bedding Material on Comfort and Behaviour of Dairy Cows

Ranjana Sinha Madan Lal Kamboj Ashish Ranjan
Vol 7(7), 67-73

Present investigation was carried out to study the effect of bedding material on comfort and behaviour of crossbred lactating cows. Sixteen lactating crossbred cows were selected based on parity and milk yield and randomly divided into two groups (control and treatment) with eight in each group. The control groups of animals were housed in loose housing system with concrete flooring and treatment group of animals were housed in loose housing system with sand bedding. Analysis revealed that, the cow comfort index was significantly (P<0.01) higher in treatment group as compared to control group. There was a significant (P<0.05) difference of eating time and rumination time of cows and higher mean values were recorded in treatment group as compared to control group. The total daily lying time was significantly (P<0.01) longer for cows on sand bedding than on concrete bedding. The duration of lying bouts in treatment group was significantly (P<0.05) higher as compared to control group. It is concluded that sand bedding proved to be beneficial in terms of comfortness and behavioural responses of cow.

Keywords : Sand Bedding Crossbred Cows Cow Comfort Index Feeding Behaviour and Lying Behaviour


Housing provides shade and protection to cows from excessive solar radiation, rain, cold and wind. The housing system affects behaviour (lying, feeding and rumination), production and reproduction of dairy animals in a varying range. In shelter, lying time of dairy cow depends on the bedding material provided. Cows prefer softer bedding materials for lying and they spent longer time in lying down on soft surface as compared to hard surface Manninen et al. (2002) and Tucker and Weary, (2004). Attention towards sand as a bedding material has increased because it is reasonable, improves cleanliness, and reward for leg health (Norring et al., 2008). Sand is the “gold standard” for housed cow comfort and ideal bedding material for cow to improve behaviour and health by Bickert (1999). Sand bedding provide traction for cow to stand up and lying down without slipping and also provides ample grip to express natural behaviour (Bell, 2007). Sand prevent bacterial growth due to inorganic and non-absorbant property to allow proper dainage of urine and other moisture of the building and reduces the chances of mastitis. The present investigation was undertaken to study the effect of sand bedding on comfort and behaviour of crossbred cows.

Material and Methods

For this study sixteen healthy lactating crossbred cows of second to fourth lactation were selected from the institute herd, maintained at Livestock Research Centre of ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, Haryana. The animals were reared under loose housing system. The cow were randomly selected and divided into two groups with eight in each group (control and treatment) on the basis of lactation yield and parity. The control groups of animal were housed in loose housing system, which consisted of covered floor area made up concrete cement, open floor area with brick paved and feeding was done through an elevated manger. Treatment group of animals were housed in loose housing system with sand bedding in both inside half of covered area and in open paddock adjoining the covered area. The feeding was done at groud level installing fenceline feeding system. The present study was duly approved by the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC), ICAR – National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, Haryana, India. The cow comfort index is one assessment of stall suitability: Cow Comfort Index (CCI) is the proportion of cows lying down to total cows in the pen (Nelson, 1996).

Cow Comfort Index (CCI) = [ (Number of cows lying in stalls) / (No. of cows lying + Number of cows standing in a stall) ]x100

Cow comfort was recorded along with behavioural parameters using visual observations as well as by digital recording using video camera (Model = DH-CA-FW 161KP). Eight Cameras were installed at different places with different angles in the experimental shed so that whole shed can be covered in viewing angle. The cameras shoot images at capturing speed of 30 frames per second (FPS) with 540 TV lines resolution. The images and video were stored in 16 channel digitel video recorder (DVR) (DAHUA TECHNOLOGIES). In the present study paired t – test were used to study the significance of difference between treatment and control group. All the analyses was performed using SPSS 11.0 statistical package.

Results and Discussion

Cow Comfort Index (CCI)

The mean values of cow comfort index in treatment and control groups were 93.75 ± 2.79 and 78.75 ± 4.94 percent, respectively as presented in Fig.1.

Fig 1: Cow comfort index (CCI) in treatment and control groups

The proportion of cow comfort indices was significantly (P<0.05) higher in treatment group as compared to control group. Overton et al. (2003) reported that cow comfort index as 85% is an ideal comfort level for the cows. These indicate that sand bedding was more comfortable as compared to concrete flooring in terms of physiological responses of dairy cows. The sand bedded stall improves cow comfort, reduces hock injury and also reduces risk of mastitis by Stowell and Inglis (2000) and Cook (2010). These findings are in agreement with the findings of Hippen et al. (2007), who reported a higher cow comfort index bedded with dolomitic limestone (DL) or reclaimed manure solids (RMS).

Lying Time and Standing Time

The mean values of lying time for treatment and control group of cows were 614.82±4.04 (10:14 hrs.) and 552.86±4.73 (9.12 hrs.) and mean value of standing time were 499.20±5.77 (8:19 hrs.) and 563.85±9.14 (9:24 hrs.) minutes, respectively as presented in Fig. 2. The proportion of lying time was significantly (P<0.01) greater in treatment group as compared to control group, whereas the proportion of standing time was significantly lower (P<0.01) in treatment group as compared to control group. These findings are quite similar to that of Cook et al. (2008), who compared lying time of cows housed in concrete flooring and in sand bedding. This indicates that housing modification and sand bedding provides more comfort for resting and rumination. Present results are also in agreement with findings of Margerison et al. (2014), who reported that lying time was greater and standing time was shorter in sand beds as compared to concrete floor.

Fig 2: Different behaviour of cows in treatment and control groups (minutes/day)

These findings are also in agreement with Boone et al. (2010) and Drissler et al. (2005), who found an increased lying time of cattle by providing sand as bedding material than the concrete as flooring material. Despite these behavioural effects, the cleanliness and hoof health were better for cows kept on sand bedded stalls than those kept in straw bedded stall.

Eating Time

The mean values of eating time for treatment and control group of cows were 333.24±2.44 (5:33 hrs.) and 323.57±3.00 (5.23 hrs.) minutes, respectively (Fig. 2). The proportion of eating time was significantly (P<0.01) greater in treatment group as compared to control group. Our observation of the mean feeding time of approximately 5 hours/day corresponds to that previously reported in free stalls by Cook et al. (2004). Madke et al. (2010) reported that, dairy cows on sand bedding spent more time on feeding, rumination and lying as compared to concrete floor. Present findings were contrary to observations of Rushen et al. (2007) who also found that there is no significant difference in eating time of the cows kept on concrete flooring and the cows kept on rubber mattress.

Rumination Time

The overall mean of total rumination time for treatment and control group of cows was 421.61±4.34 (7:01 hr.) and 375.76±5.40 (6:15 hr.) minutes, respectively (Fig. 2). The proportion of rumination time was significantly (P<0.05) greater in treatment group as compared to control group. Cooper et al. (2007) reported that cows prefer to ruminate while lying down and it is therefore important that cows are able to access a comfortable and inviting place to lie down to maximize rumination time. Sand bedding inside the covered area as well as in the open paddock in our modified shed served as a comfortable resting place for animals, due to which total rumination time of the cows housed under treatment shed was found to be significantly higher than the cows housed under control shed. Thus findings of this studied coincide with observation of Chaplin et al. (2000) and Jat et al. (2005), who reported that cows spent more time on feeding and rumination due to provision of sand bedded under house. Kumar et al. (2013) also reported that better utilization of feed and increase rumination using fence line due to higher production of saliva and reduced aggression

Lying Bout Duration

The overall means lying bout duration of cows in treatment and control group was 76.38±0.53 (1:16 hr.) and 70.42±0.76 (1:10 hr.) minutes, respectively (Fig. 3).

Fig 3: Lying bout duration of cows (min/day)

The duration of lying bout was significantly (P<0.05) higher in treatment group of cows as compared to control group. These findings are in agreement with the findings of Calamari et al.(2009) who reported that the lying bout duration was longest in stall with sand bedding compared to straw and rubber mats. These findings are also in agreement with Madke et al. (2010) who found an increased duration of lying in cows provided with sand as bedding material than the cows having concrete as flooring material.

Number of Lying and Feeding Bouts

The overall mean number of lying bouts was 8.88±0.23 and 9.27±0.29 and the mean value of number of feeding were 10.31±0.41 and 10.69±0.43 respectively (Table1). There was no significant difference of number of lying bouts and feeding bouts of cows between treatment and control group. The results of this study are in close consensus with the results of Manninen et al.(2002) who found average number of lying bouts in sand bedded cows was significantly lower than cows bedded with straw and rubber mats. Similar results were also found by Tucker et al.(2003) who found that there were significantly (P<0.05) less number of lying event in case of sand bedded cows (6.7± 1.06) as compared to saw dust (9.1± 0.73) and rubber mattress (9.3± 0.68). Therefore sand bedding improved hoof health and increase cow comfort due to insulating and softening properties.

Table 1: Number of lying and feeding bouts of cows in treatment and control group

Weeks Number of Lying Bouts Number of Feeding Bouts
Treatment group Control group Treatment group Control group
1st 7.25 ±1.29 8.17 ±1.29 10.00 ± 0.41 10.45 ± 0.68
2nd 7.68 ± 1.02 8.20 ± 1.37 12.50 ± 1.03 9.87 ± 0.91
3rd 8.35 ± 0.97 9.50 ± 1.09 10.80 ± 0.76 9.62 ± 1.10
4th 7.20 ± 1.14 9.13 ± 1.31 9.40 ± 0.76 12.50 ± 0.97
5th 8.50 ± 1.07 5.22 ± 1.03 9.20 ± 1.02 9.60 ±1.03
6th 7.80 ± 1.27 7.87 ± 1.46 9.83 ± 0.31 8.80 ± 0.96
7th 8.00 ± 1.04 6.88 ± 0.89 9.80 ± 1.02 12.37 ± 1.09
8th 9.25 ±1.13 8.09 ± 1.09 8.50 ± 0.85 10.37 ± 1.01
9th 7.68 ±1.08 9.68 ± 1.19 10.60 ± 0.75 12.60 ± 0.69
10th 8.20 ±0.87 9.83 ± 1.08 12.50 ± 1.06 10.80 ± 0.75
Overall 7.99 ± 0.19 8.25 ± 0.45 10.31 ± 0.41 10.69 ± 0.43


From the above results it may be concluded that the dairy lactating cows housed with sand bedding showed better behavioural responses like significantly increased lying, feeding and rumination time. Cow comfort index was also better with sand bedding than concrete floor. Due to inorganic nature, sand prevents bacterial growth and amorphous nature causes dryness of building, reduces heat and provides traction for cow to prevent hock lesion. So the stall with sand bed surface has great importance in terms of productivity, health and welfare of dairy cattle.


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