Effect of Stall Base Type on Dairy Cow Herd Health, Costs, Producer Satisfaction, Lameness, and Leg Lesions

W. K. Fulwider1, T. Grandin1, D. J. Garrick1, T. E. Engle1, W. D. Lamm1, N. L. Dalsted2, and B. E. Rollin134

1 Department of Animal Sciences,
2 Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
3 Department of Philosophy, and
4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523


The objective of this field study was to compare effect of stall base on herd health, stall maintenance, bedding cost, and producer satisfaction. Ninety-one dairies visited during a 4-mo period starting October 14, 2005 included 33 rubber-filled mattress (RFM), 27 sand, and 31 waterbed (WB) dairies. In this study, percent culled was higher for RFM (P = 0.001) and sand (P = 0.06) than WB stall base dairies. Percent of cows in fourth lactation or greater was higher on WB than either RFM (P = 0.01) or sand (P = 0.02) dairies. There was no difference between base types for production or somatic cell count. Bedding cost per bed per week was WB ($0.73), RFM ($0.89), and sand ($0.97). Sand beds were bedded less frequently (P = 0.01). Comparisons between RFM and sand indicate higher satisfaction for RFM regarding manure management (P < 0.0001) and higher satisfaction with sand for cow comfort (P < 0.0001). Producers with WB were more satisfied with base life (P < 0.000 1) and cow comfort (P < 0.000 1) than those with RFM. Producers with WB were more satisfied with cow longevity (P < 0.0001) as compared to RFM. Length of sand stall was correlated with longevity (0.56, P = 0.01) while percent of mature cows was greater on dairies that provided WBs (P = 0.02). This data indicates that WB may be a viable option for cows and producers, when good quality sand is unavailable or handling sand-laden manure is not feasible.

Keywords. Bedding requirement, maintenance cost, producer satisfaction, stall base

Stall dimensions

Stall width, length, and neck rail height were recorded. Sand stall curb dimension was recorded. In sand stalls, neck rail height was measured from the bottom of the brisket locator to the underside of the neck rail.

Leg lesion measurements scored

Cow hygiene measurements

Production information collected

Producer satisfaction values

Stall base purchase and maintenance costs

Producers reported:

Tarsal lesions

Knee and thigh lesions

Stall dimensions: lameness, lesions, somatic cell count

Cow hygiene

Producer satisfaction


All base types can be successfully managed. Producers must be aware of the differences in mana ement required, especially when considering a change in base type. It is 9 imperative that producers visit other dairies that are successfully using other types of equipment and technology whether building new, or remodeling old facilities. Stall dimensions must match not only cow size, but be designed with the base type in mind. Sand stalls should have as much bed length as RFM or WB in addition to the curb to improve cow comfort and reduce tarsaljoint abrasions. Reducing lameness and lesions are important not only to increase production and longevity, but to maintain low somatic cell count and maximize profit. Cows on RFM had more score I (P < 0.0001), 2 (P < 0.0001), and 3 (P < 0.0001) lesions than cows on sand or WB. This study indicates a relationship between cow longevity and length of sand stall. Dairies with WB have more mature cows than those with other base types. This may be due in part to the WB moving with the cow much in the same way that sand does. Producer satisfaction values support the findings of this study. More research needs to be done to determine the reasons for these differences.

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