The building and equipping of a barn involves many factors; not only internal factors such as management and the size of the business, but also external factors such as climate conditions and culture. Prior to constructing a barn, it is important to determine what type of barn would be in keeping with its surroundings. Not only must a barn be adapted to suit the climate, it is also important to know which products and services are available in the area and whether they are economically feasible.
Prior to deciding on how to build (or convert) a building, it would be wise to check up on the rules and regulations of the country concerned and identify any potential subsidies.
The climate inside the barn, particularly the ventilation, is an important condition of the cows’ well-being. Good ventilation implies a sufficient and constant flow of fresh air, without any draughts. Draught has to be avoided because it has a negative effect on the cows’ health. Usually the animals will avoid the draughty spaces in a barn. In addition, sufficient ventilation capacity is essential to evacuate the animals’ body heat, HN3, methane and CO2. Insufficient ventilation creates an unpleasant climate in which the cows’ production is not optimal.
Housing and barn hygiene
Optimum housing is crucial for prevention of claw problems. Make sure that there are sufficient cubicles (one per cow) with the appropriate dimensions and soft bedding allowing the animals to rest with comfort and ease. If the number of cubicles is insufficient, or if they are too small or uncomfortable, the animals - in particular the low-ranking cows - are forced to remain standing longer, which exerts extra strain on the claws. In addition, the claws dry less soon, which increases infection pressure.
The floor is another major area of attention; a rough and dry floor keeps the animals from slipping and hurting themselves. Moreover, unevenness and level differences should be avoided whenever possible. A sufficient number of wide alleys and passageways are needed to ensure proper cow traffic towards the milking robot. In addition, obstacles (for example a chain of a slurry scraper) should be avoided or minimised where possible to prevent any disturbance of cow traffic.
Barn hygiene is of paramount importance and is closely linked to housing. The bacteria that cause digital and interdigital dermatitis thrive in a soiled and wet environment without fresh air. Therefore, dairy farmers should ensure clean and dry cubicles and clear the floor of manure frequently (possibly with the Discovery mobile barn cleaner). Effective ventilation also contributes to faster drying of barn floors and a healthy barn climate. Foot-baths are part of improved barn hygiene; this is because they clean and strengthen the skin and horn of the claws as well as killing bacteria.