Case study: how do we make steps safe?

Case study: how do we make steps safe?

One of our trainers came with the following question:
What are the guidelines for building steps that cows are happy to climb safely?

We have two examples of cows on steps for you: one from Indonesia and one from New Zealand. Please watch and let us know what you think.

What guidelines should we adopt?

Comments (13)


I would not like to see a cow in heat stop to be mounted on those steps.

Annelise Hever, Switzerland

In barns: the less steps the better! But if they are there they should not be slippery or covered with small stones or other items that can hurt the claws. From nature cows can walk well in uneven places, they manage on quite steep slopes in the mountains as long as they are not chased. Lame cows, cows in heat and people who do not handle cows gently and in a quite way, means frightening or chasing them are the main problem with such stairs.

Anouk Brinkhoff

Thanks Kent and Annelise for sharing your thoughts! Good point about handling the cows quietly Annelise. Also, the steps indeed shouldn't be slippery. Rubber or fine grippy groove will do (diamond blade cutting lines, 2x2 mm wide and deep, every 5 mm). And third, this is a good length for the steps: 1 feet up, 2-3 feet forward!


Cows can easily walk stairs especially when they are used to it. Steps should be minimum 60 cm long and max. 15 cm high. With big herds make the path also wide enough so cows don´t push each other. Quiet cow handling is a must. Slippery floors must be avoided. You can make a grid like former writer suggested or use profiled rubber so they have good grip. It makes them secure and not afraid. Most important is give them time to choose their own speed. When the steepness is to big you might choose for a curved driveway like in mountain areas.

Antonio Gomes, Portugal

Joep, when you talked about groove depth and width, you obviously meant cm, not mm. I suppose 2cm wide grooves spaced 5cm means 3cm flat contact surface between grooves. Isn't this too narrow?


that indonesian stair is incredible! Thanks for showing that. I don´t like steps in my barns, but cows don´t mind! Of course all what was said is correct and width of critical points in each barn seems crucial for me.


I like the comments so far. Cows cope well with steps given space, a good surface, even light, compatible groups (weight, age, dominance) and no hurry. Stopping, too much speed and bullying are the worst problems. Teach them patiently, supervise vulnerable cows and allow them to move at their own pace. A curve will help- the curve will provide different widths of tread, and cows will choose the length best suited to their stride, like horses

Neil Chesterton

I recommend that any concrete slope more than 15% should have steps for cows going up and cows going down. Cows feel safe if their foot is on a flat, level surface. The rise of the step is more important than the length of the step. If cows have to go down steps I recommend a maximum rise of 100mm (4 inches). If they only ever go up then 120 - 150mm (5 - 6 inches) is ok. The length of the step doesn't matter but the longer the better. what we have noticed is that if the length of the step is about the length of their stride (750 - 800mm) the cows flow better on them, both up and down, because they don't stop and stand on one level step. I agree that the step must be level. Stepping down onto a sloping step is worse than just walking down a slope.

Anouk Brinkhoff

HI everyone, thanks for all your reactions. Great thoughts!


mmmm I think is lot of stress for the cows that type of construction for passage of the cows since it is uncomfortable for the animals, I feel that it would be much better continuous floor but not smooth

Mohammad Alkhateeb

Fully agree with Peter, most important steps should never be slippery, prefer to be covered with matts, and height should not be more than 10 cm.

Anouk Brinkhoff

Antonio Gomes, Portugal wrote:
Joep, when you talked about groove depth and width, you obviously meant cm, not mm. I suppose 2cm wide grooves spaced 5cm means 3cm flat contact surface between grooves. Isn't this too narrow?

On a slatted floor we only do 2 x2 MM millimeter grooves, ,and every 4-5 MM millimetre out of each other…. Gives excellent grip for 5-7 years… Going to 2,5 cm space between lines: lot less effect…

Closed flat concrete floors: best is sand beds!!! Excellent grip!!! Or rubber…
Grooving on these concrete flat floors is a big debate, and I do not have the right answer…

Dušan Kořínek

Cows cope well barriers, including steps, unless they are under stress (or pressure humans - staff). The ideal is a non-slip surface or gouging wrote about Joep.

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