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Brisket Boards in Dairy Freestalls: Pros and Cons

Dairy cows are vulnerable to stress – both physical and emotional. If they aren’t comfortable and safe in their stalls, the whole dairy farm will suffer. The first step towards maintaining the health of a herd is to ensure its habitat is suitable.

Modern farm shelters commonly include features that benefit the animal caretaker by changing the animals’ behavior. The owner must pay attention to the health and well-being of the cow. Not just for financial reasons but for ethical ones too.

This post aims to examine how we may increase bovine welfare. We’ll investigate modern production techniques and materials, with a focus on brisket boards.

Why Use Brisket Boards?

The brisket board helps position the cow, supporting her when she’s lying down. When a cow lies too far forward in her cubicle bed, it can be difficult for her to get out.

Brisket locators, with their boards, help keep herds out of alleys and barns by reserving space for them in a specific section of the shed, which makes feeding them more manageable.

Why Freestall Design Matters

The key to improving cow comfort is to build a shed that lets them interact with other animals and people.

Thanks to modern technologies and ongoing research into animal welfare, farms find new ways to make cows feel healthier and create a more humane environment.

While freestall designs vary, there are some features dairy farmers should strive towards, including the following:

  • Clean environment
  • Proper ventilation
  • Well lit, dry conditions
  • Inclusion of pasture access for cows

A freestall for dairy cows should feature the appropriate size brisket boards. The problem lies in installing brisket boards that are comfortable for the cow and sanitary for the owner. One must consider the pros and cons.

Pros

When a dairy cow is lying down, it’s essential to arrange her securely to reduce the risk of injury. Brisket boards encourage the animal to rest and provide pressure support.

Brisket boards and locators also contribute to:

  • Cleaner beds
  • Lowered maintenance costs
  • Easier rising
  • Cleaner animals

Cons

Cows prefer freestalls without brisket locators.

According to research, cows’ interaction with stall features while lying down causes discomfort and reduces lying sessions.

Without the presence of a brisket board, dairy cows can lunge further forward in the stall. Handling large cows can be difficult. And, as a result, cow breakouts happen when the cow is startled.

Other adverse consequences of removing the boards include:

  • Resting in a diagonal position
  • Restlessness
  • Soiled beds

Types of Brisket Board available

Brisket board is manufactured from metal, concrete, steel, or wood.

When buying timber brisket boards, make sure that you choose quality wood that has an even surface.

Modern designs make use of lighter, flexible materials such as Polyethylene.

A sand bed brisket board is adjustable, presenting the cow naturally while conserving space. The low, stable design provides a secure surface for cows to rest on.

Measurements: Freestalls, Brisket Boards & Locators

A cow freestall should be high enough for the largest cow in the herd to rest comfortably on the surface. It should be large enough to let cows extend their front legs while resting and walk forward while rising.

The correct stall length is calculated by measuring the cow’s rump height in inches and multiplying it by 1.2.

If a cow’s rump height is 60 inches, the bed length should be 72 inches (60*1.2=72). The minimum width should be 54 inches.

The length of the brisket board should be equivalent to the animal’s diagonal body length. Set the brisket locator 68 to 72 inches away from the mattress or curb edge.

Brisket boards should be no more than 10 to 12 cm above ground level.

For some producers, the changing layout at the front of the stall is a source of frustration, and it’s the primary reason they don’t use brisket boards.

Conclusion

Research shows that cows prefer to enter and lie down in stalls without brisket boards.

However, when it comes to stall design, we must be careful. According to studies, having too many stall modifications (partitions, neck rail, brisket board, or end curb) can reduce the benefit of the stall.

What is clear is there is no “one-size-fits-all” design for dairy cow freestalls.

While the brisket board appears to help keep stalls clean by relocating cows closer to the curb, data suggests they make stalls less pleasant for cattle.