Cow comfort is the cornerstone to a longer and productive lifespan of the animal. A healthy cow will produce more milk and live longer. The comfort of your cow determines how long it remains healthy and productive.
Feed and water: Every cow or young stock needs access to palatable feed of the right composition, and clean water for at least 22 hours a day.
Light: All animals need to experience a daynight rhythm. During daylight there must be enough light in their shelter. Aeration: Ensure that their shelter has a good circulation of fresh air.
Rest: All the animals should be able to lie down as much as they like. But 12 to 14 hours a day is good for confined dairy cows. There must be no social stress or stress caused by people working or in contact with the cows.
Space: Ensure your animals walk around Cow comfort equals more milk: What to do The comfort of your cow determines how long it remains healthy and productive. A cow has to move 25,000 litres of blood through its udder, to produce 50 litres of milk. This is equal to a person running a marathon comfortably, safe and stress-free and have enough space to exercise.
Health: No animals should be suffering from wounds, infections or diseases. The barn design must support a high level of hygiene and bio-security (walk and work lines, direct and indirect contact with other animals, etc.).
Principles of a Good Cow Barn Design
a) Cow comfort
b) Labour efficiency
c) Structural soundness
Cow comfort Provide adequate space, feed, water, ease to rest and move around, fresh air and light. Flexible and expandable Think and build in straight lines for the separation of different flows and to allow easy expansion at minimum costs and interruption of these principles. Simple, robust and economical Create simple and robust structures that are durable, require minimum maintenance, and offer safe and comfortable working conditions for farm workers.
In a relatively compact barn, multi-tasking is important. The working environment must be open and easy to clean up.
Optimisation of movements/flows and labour efficiency
Assure separation of the six different flows in and around the:
(1) cow flows, (2) feed flows, (3) manure flows, (4) work flows, (5) milk flows and (6) information flows.
Movement of all components – storage, feeding, mixing, and cutting among others; feed push-ups, cleaning of feed troughs.
Manure flow: Manure and urine and dirt from cleaning of floors should be separated from clean flows – milk and feedstuffs. \
Cow flow: Movements of all animals during the day, during the year and seasons and during their lives. People flow and work flow: Movement of people during all the work they need to do in and around the barn.
Materials flow: Storage, use, handling, maintenance and disposal of all materials and equipment in the barn.
Information flow (including keeping of farm records: How people communicate with each other, how information is registered and transferred from one person to the other, how people can easily pick up information, they need in a certain situation and for a certain task.
Some of the deficiencies:
1. Low-roofing level contributing to heat stress;
2. Inadequate width of the walking alley;
3. Lack of roof cover in some key areas of the barn, especially over feed alleys/troughs;
4. Inappropriate dimensions for the sleeping cubicles;
5. Inappropriate dimensions for various barn components;
6. Inadequate manure handling infrastructure within and outside the barn;
7. Inappropriate positioning and quality of support facilities;
8. Lack of or inadequate rainwater harvesting and storage facilities;
9. Limited provisions for possibilities of future growth and expansion of the cow barn
A good cow barn design should provide the following;
1. A roof for shade and rainwater;
2. No side walls, only bars to keep the animals in;
3. Good flooring to collect manure and to ensure cows can walk safely and comfortably;
4. Comfortable stalls (beds): Soft flooring/ bedding, good head-swing space;
5. Accessible and adequate water points;
6. Comfortable feed tables; easy to clean and for the cow to eat from
Alex Gathii Gitonga is a Certified Cow Signals Trainer, USAid Champion of Change and MD, Tanolope Consultancy Limited .