A survey on Italian compost dairy barns
AbstractCompost-bedded pack barns, 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 deep-bedded pack that is frequently stirred in order to incorporate fresh manure into the pack and to enhance the evaporation of water. Experiences with compost bedded pack barns for dairy cows are reported in literature from the USA, Israel, the Netherlands and Austria. The main advantages of these housing systems regard animal welfare and manure management. Since 2006, this housing system has been applied consistently in Italy. However, scientific knowledge about Italian compost barns is still lacking. This study aims at describing housing system, assessing producersâ€™ satisfaction and measuring performance of dairy cows housed in compost bedded pack barns. Ten commercial dairy farms in northern Italy was involved in the study. All pens in each farm were surveyed to determine the surface of total available area, bedded area and pack depth. In order to investigate management practices, labor requirement, consumption of bedding materials and producers satisfaction, a questionnaire was submitted to each farm manager. The temperature of the bedded pack was measured in each farm during summer and winter. Moreover, data from Italian Breeder Association were collected for each herd over a period of one year (from September 2011 to September 2012). For the ten compost barns involved in the study the average total available area was 10.9 m2 per cow and the average pack area was 6.7 m2 per 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 per cow per year. A clear tendency to inverse correlation was found between the space per cow and the amount of bedding needed per cow (R2= 0.395; p-value=0.051). Operations related to pack management require 4.1 hours of labor per cow per year. Direct relationship was found between the bedded area space per cow and the annual labor required for pack management per cow (R2=0.505; p-value=0.048). Performance of cows housed in compost barns included in this study was encouraging and although some concerns about the cost of bedding, overall producers were satisfied with this housing system.
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