A survey of Italian compost dairy barns
AbstractCompost-bedded pack barns (CBPB), generally known as compost dairy barns, are alternative housing systems for dairy cows. In these barns, the whole surface of the resting area is covered with a deepbedded pack that is frequently stirred in order to incorporate fresh manure into the pack and to enhance the evaporation of water. Experiences with CBPB for dairy cows are reported in literature from the US, Israel, the Netherlands and Austria. Potential advantages of these housing systems regard animal welfare and manure management. Since 2006, this housing system has been widely applied in Italy. However, there is still little scientific knowledge available about Italian CBPB. This study aims to describe the housing system, assess producersâ€™ satisfaction and measure performance of dairy cows housed in CBPB. Ten commercial dairy farms in northern Italy were involved in the study. All pens in each farm were surveyed to determine the total available surface area, bedded area and pack depth. A questionnaire was submitted to each farm manager in order to investigate management practices, labour requirement, amount of bedding materials used and producersâ€™ satisfaction. The temperature of the bedded pack was measured in summer and in winter. Data from the Italian Dairy Association were collected for each herd over a period of one year (from September 2011 to September 2012). In the barns involved in the study, the average total available area was 10.9 m2/cow and the average pack area was 6.7 m2/cow. The bedded pack was aerated 1.4 times per day.The most commonly used bedding material in these farms was dry sawdust. The consumption of bedding materials was 8.1 m3/cow per year. A tendency towards inverse correlation was found between the space per cow and the amount of bedding needed per cow (R2=0.395; P=0.051). Operations related to pack management required 4.1 hours of labour per cow per year. A direct relationship was found between the bedded area space per cow and the annual labour required for pack management (R2=0.505; P=0.048). Although some concerns were raised about the cost of bedding and ease of management, producers were satisfied with this housing system.
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