Contrasting the lying down times of cows occupying steal cubicles compared to plastic cubicles.

Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the B.Sc. Honours Degree in Agriculture & Environmental Management at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology by Stephen Colgan.

The expansion in the dairy sector in Ireland occurred due to abolition of the milk quotas in 1 April 2015; this brought the opportunity for herd expansions and new dairy farm entrants. 2 Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 promoted the expansion in the dairy sector, with 3 targets to boost production by 50% by 2020. Increase in herd sizes and new dairy farms 4 resulted expansion of animal housing mainly cubicle sheds for winter months. Easyfix 5 introduced a flexible plastic range of cubicles in 2014. Cow comfort/welfare were the topics 6 of this research as there was no previous research carried out between steel (rigid) and plastic 7 (flexible). The aim of the research was to observe occupancy rates of each type of cubicle and 8 which was higher. The research site was a shed on an intensive dairy farm, the shed 9 containing both types of cubicles with cows having access to both. A time-lapse camera was 10 set up facing 8 replicates of each type of cubicle for two 24hour periods, the footage was 11 analysed and occupancy times recorded. The plastic (flexible) cubicles had a significantly (P 12 ≤ 0.05) higher occupancy time during both monitoring periods than the steel (rigid) cubicles. 13 First 24hr (P=0.045), second 24hr (P=0.010). The average occupancy time of the plastic 14 cubicles was higher on both occasions by 1.19hrs in the first 24hr and 1.41hrs in the second 15 24hrs compared to the average occupancy time of the steel cubicles. Suggesting that the cows 16 could lie more naturally and less restricted in the plastic cubicles due to the flexibility.

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