What's Underfoot

Published on Thu, 08/04/2022 - 2:24pm

What's Underfoot.

 Innovative Flooring Options Offer Ample Ways to add Comfort and Aid in Productivity with a Dairy Operation.

 By Maura Keller.

The care and comfort of a dairy cows plays a direct role in the productivity and longevity of a herd. In addition, consumers are paying closer attention to animal comfort and proper treatment throughout the milk or beef production process. One area that can provide a wealth of comfort benefits to the animal and to the producer’s bottom line is proper flooring.

As Agri-Comfort’s product manager, Martin Folkema, explains, lameness in dairy cattle is directly related to flooring and flooring surfaces. In fact, lameness leads to higher incidences of culling, higher veterinary and medicinal costs, loss of milk production, delayed reproduction and inevitably, lost profit.

“According to the Journal of Dairy Science, a soft surface is beneficial for hoof health,” Folkema says. “With the exception of pasture, a durable rubber flooring that provides both cushion and traction is the best alternative. Another economic benefit of rubber flooring aside from all the negative issues associated with lameness is the improvement of cow longevity which has a dramatic impact on the bottom line. After feed costs, replacement (farm raised or purchased) makes up for 20 percent of a dairy’s expenses.”

Doug Goodale, vice president of development at EASYFIX, also points out that cattle are much more confident on rubber and producers should look at the quality and warranty features, especially for high-volume cattle.

“The more recycled product in the rubber, the faster it will wear and it will not provide much deflection, which allows for added com-fort and traction,” Gooddale says.

In addition to hoof health and comfort, the reasons to invest in comfort flooring for dairy cows is evident in what EASYFIX has learned from its customers.

“On walkways we see nearly a 20 percent increase in stride,” Gooddale says. “And we also see reduced injuries.” In addition, there is increasing laying times on a quality mattress which equates to more milk.

“I’ve had customers say they in-crease preg rates with rubber in the alley,” Gooddale says. “There is less slipping, increased riding and in-creased heat detection.” EASYFIX also has seen longer times at the feed line when there is rubber under foot.

“On parlor decks they move in and out faster and should let down milk faster due to the added com-fort,” Gooddale adds. “Not enough people consider rubber in work-ing areas. It reduces noise and add confidence to the cattle as they run through the chutes.”

Processing plants also are indicating more interest in having rubber flooring throughout the entire processing line. In fact, it’s a law in most of Europe to incorporate rubber flooring in these facilities. As such, EASYFIX has developed a heavy-duty high-grip product around rotary entry areas that producers and processing plants have embraced.

Options Aplenty
The Agri-Comfort division has two interlocking 4x6 mats (double button and hammer top), N15 and N18 rolled rubber for automated alley scraper barns by Huber Technik, and the recently added Agri-Diamond rolled rubber flooring for high impact, heavy traffic areas and skid loader cleaning (up to 7 foot wide).

According to Folkema, the mats feature custom interlock options that can be modified for each producers’ individual needs. Ideal for areas where rolled mats are not possible these multi-purpose mats have a grooved underside that allow for drainage and add flex to absorb heavy foot concussion. To sustain traction and offer slip resistance, Agri-Comfort also has incorporated an aggressive top pattern into its mats.  In both dairy and beef slatted floor facilities, Agri-Comfort offers both the Legacy and Premier slat rubber flooring with their patented all rubber fasteners and customized sizes (up to 4x12 and 8 year warranty.

For producers looking for rolled rubber flooring, Agri-Comfort also offers the Huber Technik rolled rubber flooring, which can be cut to customized lengths. Ideal for areas where minimal joints or seams will aid in the comfort of the animals, these rolled flooring mats are also flexible and provide a high level of slip resistance.

Agri-Comfort has developed rolled flooring specific to areas in most need of comfort and slip resistant flooring. The N15 walkway roll is an ideal parlor floor, whereas the N18 walkway flooring is ideal for alleys providing comfort and sure footing.  The company’s N20 and N33 rolls provide even higher shock absorption for increased comfort in stall applications.
EASYFIX offers a series of slat mats for dairy to improve the com-fort, performance and welfare of animals being housed on concrete slats. Available in a variety of sizes, the slats offer reinforced designs with durability and comfort in mind.

In addition, EASYFIX also offers its original SR Slat Rubber that boasts a reinforced design, high-grip profile and a five-year warranty. The company’s EASYFIX SDR Slat Rubber system is a favorite among customers thanks to its smooth, sloped surface that offers faster run-off and increased animal comfort.

Rubber Matting in the milking parlour also is key in providing superior grip for the animals. EASY-FIX offers rubbing matting for all areas of a dairy operation, but the correct positioning of rubber can also encourage cows to move from the collecting yard into the parlour, which speeds up the milking process. In addition, for lame cows, the cushioning advantage of rubber mats relieves pressure on the sole and can help reduce milking times as well.

What To Look For
When evaluating the best flooring options for your facility, resilience is key. As Folkema explains, durability has become a key focus area when it comes to design in rubber flooring applications.

“Moving to a high grade virgin compound that is abrasion resistant as well high tensile strength is of optimum importance in the daily rigors experienced in a modern dairy facility,” Folkema says. Products of this caliber will be ideal for varied types of cleaning products, precision fit and installation for optimum performance. This will ensure minimal herd disruption due to continual warranty replacement of lower grade short life products.

When identifying flooring options, consider the level of use the flooring options will see each day. Certain areas, such as flat walkways or loading chutes may see different levels of activity, which will determine the type of durability needed.  It is important to watch for loose tread, or if the mats are losing traction causing the animals to slip, or if the mats began to harden and crack.

Those are indications the flooring needs to be replaced.  Down the road, Gooddale envisions continued improvements in quality. “The ROI is so hard to show or prove in some areas but I believe that walkways, feed lines and working areas are not considered nearly enough for comfort and cow heath,” Gooddale says. “Milk and beef processors are being pushed hard by their buyers and consumers to provide more comfort and to be working on sustainability and GHG. There is a high possibility it will be pushed up the chain from the consumer channel to force more com-fort throughout the barn.”