When genetics and feed regime are taken from the equation the performance of your cows will depend on their housing environment. It is difficult to quantify what the net effect of an individual’s facility is having on their margin but everybody is aware of the dramatic consequences an incident of lameness can have.

Much consideration is given to cow movement, cow flow and drinking points in virtually all buildings new and old and this consideration needs to continue. However the greatest consideration is being given to cubicle design.

The cubicle structure is just a guide and will act as a guide regardless of shape or form. Its function is effective for extremely short periods in the cow’s routine and has little to do with the overall quality of the environment. It does have a role to play but this role must be considered in terms of the principles that determine whether the cow’s natural preferences are being met.

Principle 1. Ease of access. Determined by the height and position of the neck rail.

Principle 2. Shock absorbent bed to cushion impact from free fall, determined by floor cover.

Principle 3. Optimal softness to ensure that the bed closely resembles field conditions, determined by floor cover.

Principle 4. Non-slip surface to enable the cow to have complete confidence in getting up, determined by floor cover and positioning of correct brisket board type.

Principle 5. Ease of escape determined by neck rail, cubicle design, passage width & anti-slip property of floor cover.

Principle 6. Hygienic surface, determined by floor cover.

Principle 7. Stress reduction in entry and escape given almost 360 degree vision of the cow by removing any perceived trip or hit hazards.

Principle 8. Ease of maintenance determined by floor cover.

Principle 9. Feasibility and cost effectiveness, determined by existing conditions.

Principle 10. Long lasting quality system determined by all of the above.

To put these principles into practice it is necessary to look at the height of the neck rail and the position of the brisket board but the most important element is the bed.