Why are these cows not lying in their new beds?

Why are these cows not lying in their new beds?

Why won't these cows rest in their new beds?

I visited this farmer near the border or Austria. He is transforming his stanchion barn into a freestall barn. It is still under contruction and since May the cows are in a part of the new barn. In the old barn the youngstock was on slatted floors with rubber and the cows on rubber mats. Now, he is using horse manure and fresh bailey straw. The beds are very soft and the farmer measured about 3 more degrees in the bedding than in the rubber covered walkways.

It's an organic farm with 26 milking cows and beds for 25 cows. However, only 15 cows are resting in the beds. Why won't these cows rest in their new beds?

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The cows are now standing too long. More than 30% have hoof problems, they are very dirty and there are problems with a high cell yield.
The farmer is very upset and I hope we can help him change things around!

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Some more details

  • The farmer tried to tie the cows to the beds, without good results
  • The width of the boxes is 117 cm and in my opinion the brisket board is a bit to close for cows to lie down straight. I recommended to put away the brisket board on one side, to see if that would mke a difference.
  • In the photo a lot of the cows are lying at the outside walkway, where it's windy and everything smells fresh
  • The ration is changing very often to fresh grass and grass-silage, depensing on the weather.
  • The noise of the construction might cause problems as well, there's a lot of varation in the herd between nervous and calm cows.

Please let us know your thoughts, they are very welcome!

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Please let us know your thoughts, they are very welcome!

* More info on box sizes in our free whitepaper 'Cubicle design for dairy cows'.

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Comments (31)

Brian Dugdale

Are the new beds too warm? Is the breakdown of the horse manure creating heat in the bed and making it uncomfortable during warm weather, and producing gas? As you suggest, there may be an element of fresh air seeking.

Pieter Talsma

Ventilation in the old barn with low ceiling might be not enough. cows tend to lay outside with better climate for rumination. Also turbulence in air circulation is something cows do not like. air movement in the old barn should be in 1 direction through the barn.
Also cows are more vulnerable for disturbances we do not detect, such as improper grounding of electricity.

andrea accola

Irgend etwas passt ihnen an den Liegeboxen nicht. Ich habe an heissen tagen auch schon festgestellt, dass die Tiere lieber auf dem kühlenden Betonboden liegen als in den keine körperwärme aufnehmenden liegeboxen

Tommy Wollesen

Hoof problems, I can always spot a cow on long distances. With problems. Think about how much it hurt the cow, when she have hoof problems, and than try to look and think how much it hurt, when she go backwards. It shut be knowlige for every farmer. Look on the cow, and try to put yourself in her sistuation, than many farmers would not have this kind of problems. And loosing a lot money.


The milking cows aren't used to a freestall is that correct?
Learn to laying down in cubicles is not easy for older cows. Some cows will never learn. For lying down, they prefer places where the manure scrapper doesn't come.
My suggestion would be, with this amount of cows to tie (some) cows up for a couple off hours after eating. If it works, then go for training the others.


warmth and heat are never a thing in the cubicles. Cows can not sweat as they have no sweat pores on their skin. They cool themself by Inhale dry air and exhale humid air.

I think the old rubber mats were hard and the cows got used to them so there is not much of a difference with the concrete slats. The deep bedding is new and looks weird in compare with the old situation. Also deep bedding doens't provide as much shock absorbsion compared to a mattress, so I think the cows will take the safe way and lie down on hard slates which they are used to.


The stalls look very claustrophobic! Imagine yourself laying there when all you can really see is the head of the cow in front. The wooden dividers are a block to the cows being able to see their herd mates as well as limiting air flow. Also, the concrete walls at the ends of the stalls are unnecessary. They are also preventing air flow and minimising vision for cows in the stalls. Cows love to see where the herd is and be able to feel safe. Fresh air seeking is probably why they are preferring the outside as opposed to the stalls. It looks too dark where the stalls are. Add more lights and switch them on! Would love to hear how things progress.

Annelise Hever

Cubicles with 117 cm distance between the brisket boards is to small for these cows, many of them seem to be German Fleckvieh which are heavy and big cows. I would recommand 125 cm.
Horse manure is warming the cows because of the fermentation process. Since June there were several heat waves in central Europe and cows were suffering from heat stress. Therefore they are not laying down and of course not in a warming an too small bed. Their behavoir is seeking for cooling, the wet manure is providing them some relieve.
Hoof problems can be a further reasan why they do not lay down but in any case there will be more claw problems in the next month because of too much standing and because of the heat stress with is a heavy burden for the metabolism of dairy cows.
Advice for the farmer: Check the cubicle dimension and adapt them to correct size (see recommandations of Vetvice) and change the bedding material to a straw-chalk bedding. Good luck. Annelise

Vivien Dillon

Beds too hot, not enough air circulating in the interior. Lie down in a cubicle and soak up the air quality. Cows LIKE to be cool. A wide range of type & condition, some too fat. Ration could be too high energy for some. Cows prefer to move towards the light. Waste of effort training old cows until the building is comfortable


Heavy radiation, must be neutralized !


It may be the thempreture. I have some heiffers that lay on the slatts as soon as it gets hot. At night they lay in the cubicals. It may also be the breed. Cows that a


I continue. Cows that are heavier like Montbéliards or Normandes need more space to lay down and to stand up, then Holstein cows. So you have te adapt the cubicals to your cows.


I think if the farmer would have gone to a 48 inch wide stall and at least 96 inchs in length for a cow that size. Also would he have access to wheat straw? Would be softer then barley straw and leave out the horse manure. Maybe add some variable speed fans over the stalls to move air over the cows.

Wolfgang Sappl

Thanks to your very good comments. The barn construction contractor (10 km far from the farmer) sold the farmer finally cubicles with a width of 125 cm center to center or recommended it. The alternative to change the bedding material to a straw-chalk bedding it`s a very good idea and the farmer could do this change fast. The change of the cubicle width would be a hard thing for him because he has to break the new concrete but it is necesarry.
Thanks once more for your competent comments!

Carsten Houmann

Small cubicles and warm horse manure in fermentation proces is not what cows like. the warm and fermentation cubicles is also the reason to high cell yield
Advice to the farmer. Change material in the cubicles and be sure that the cubicles have the right construction and the position fore the neck rail.

Khuram Ihsan

i. Size of new cubicles are not according to size of cow.
ii. Improper ventilation.
iii. improper bedding (not enough cushioning ability)
iv. not enough cubicles for all the cows.
v. uncomfortable temperature in cubicles.

Maurice Severt

Good ventilation and fresh air is the key; on all the puctures you van see that the cows lay down in the fresh part of the barn. On one picture you can see that the cows even prefer fresh air whilst eating the grass! Tunnel ventilation, with large perforated tubes might be a good solution under the low ceiling. I have seen very good results with these tubes.

Joep Driessen

Thanks for all the great comments! Great to have a community where we can help each other with tips!

Cows like:
- being together (herd animals)
- Max light and air
- free head swing space from 340 cm from the backside of the box
- lying length of 200 cm
- easy walk in, so flexible neck rail at least 180 cm from the backside and 125 cm high
(Depending cow size! Check whitepaper!)

What you could try:
- Show the cows around quietly to let them get acquinted with the environment
- tie the cows in the box for a few hours after feeding.
(give them hay or other feed as a positive reward to compensate)
- Make the beds bigger
- Give then head space everywhere
- Give them sight on the rest of the herd (if nog possible, maybe try a mirror?)
- Improve light and air

Let us know how it goes & good luck!

Arturo Ruiz

I think that all these comments are fine for sure however, is important to think also in mastitis problems that this farm could be have! Is important also maintain the correct cows per pen to minimize competence between them, avoid stress I saw cows with certain levels of stress. Before buld any type of cows contrution is important to be sure the correct dimentions according to them!

Felix Adrion

I agree with Maurice: plastic tubes can be easily build in underneath the low ceiling to improve air quality in the cublicles. That should make the cubicles more attractive.

Felix Adrion

(Continued) ...but of course only in the old part of the building. For sure, there must be a problem with the bedding in all cubicles if they don't use them even in the new part.


If you look more specific then you will see that the cows, search for a cool and more open space. They won't eat under the lower [old] concreat part, but do eat under the new higher placed roof. Or not finish fresh air [outside]. The same for the beding: there are more cows in the higher placed roof area. I think it's to hot, the beding is producing heat. And I would lower the high placed hind board. Cows don't like that. Further I think that cows can see less, there is a lot closed spacing at eye height. As social animals they won't like that.
To improve the ventilation I would place a horizontal ventilator with large diameter about 10 meter.
Make light lines above the Bedding in the low part.

Good Luck.

Dima Kolodii

I would try:
1) Make a more comfortable beds, add more straw;
2) Change the air flow under the hood, maybe make make holes on the roof or put the air mixers.
As for me this problem is related to the lack of fresh air.

Joep Driessen

Great comments again, thanks! Keep them coming!


Firstly, Thnx a lot to give me this opportunity to advice a lit knowledge in it, and secondly, actually i think the cows are laying out cuz of are looking for enough space to take their rest period & or are looking for fresh air to give a lit balance in cow physiological as well as are ruminating comfortably & OR maybe they are lame also.

David Musgrave

Duh. From the photos you are obviously warm enough for grass growth. Why the heck are the cows not outside as they are in NZ

Royce Samford

Several thoughts/questions
1. No mention of any measurement (air quality/temperature, etc) at the height of a cows head is when she is down. Much more important than measurements at standing height.
2. Did not see any measure of stall length (body area)
3. What is roof height above ground level
4. What is "face-to-face" space for any facing rows
5. Is there an age, production or size difference between cows using vs not using stalls

Marko Hohler

Hello ! I think I am the closest one from Austria.
Firstly this summer was unusually hot, we had 5 strong heat weekly waves with over 36 degrees. If we merge impacts:
-extremely high THI index (clay roof without insulation, i know feeling in this type of barns)
-it is new barn and different for cows (older ones don't like news)
- i think this 7cm (117 vs 125) do not play an important role, but i agree that for 750-800kg ( i think they have to be) is 125 much better
-wooden cubicle dividers and concrete walls and 117cm width give them a little trapped feeling to go inside.
- but after all interesting view on pictures that they use feeding line and lies down only where new barn starts (higher roof)
-type of bedding is also not a big point
-type of fresh grass poor adjusted ration could have also a higher ammonia emissions and increases negative effects
All together with that cows lying crowded in "no roof" area means that high temperatures with to poor or no ventilation in base problem.
I think two weeks now is much better!

Jorgen Katholm

Generelly cows will prefere deep bedding - So something is wrong
The only cow standing with legs in the cubicle is pershing so - screaming THEN NECK RAIL HURST ME so move or remove neck rail
MUST be at least 180 cm from back and 120 cm high - from picture my guess is 160 and less than 1 m high so simply totally wrong
Cows lying looks perfect shit goes to shit and not in cubicles so do not worry about bisketboard
If als high cell count - and deep bedding always think of uberis
SO this is also saying not enough straw always add new bedding in back 1 of cubicles at least 2 times daily also in deep bedding so generally more getting shit out and adding new straw
Just my 10 cents
best wishes


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