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Housing and Floor Design for Dairy Cows Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 25th, 2021

Current Problem

Emission of ammonia is a major problem that dairy farms are grappling with because it does pollute not only the environment but also influences the health of dairy cows. Essentially, the nature and design of dairy floors determine the emission of ammonia because solid and wet dairy floors increase the production of ammonia. The dairy wastes mix with water on a wet floor and causes fermentation leading to the production of ammonia and other gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. According to Braam, Ketelaars, and Smits, the traditional housing system produces high amounts of ammonia because of the slurry storage, which occurs under the floor, and the slatted floor provides an environment for fermentation processes to take place within the dairy environment (50). Combination of urine, feces, bacteria, and urease leads to the production of huge amounts of ammonia. Essentially, the emission of ammonia signifies unhygienic conditions of dairy cows, which have serious effects on their health because it affects their feeding habits and productivity. In the Netherlands, where dairy farming is common, the emission of ammonia is high since ammonia is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming and environmental acidification in the Netherlands.

The nature of the floor that dairy cows stand on is very important because it influences their standing and stepping behaviors, as well as muscle activity. When cows stand on uncomfortable floors, they present diverse changes in their behaviors, such as regularly stepping, standing on one hind leg, constantly moving around, or lying down. These behaviors are important parameters, which show if dairy cows are comfortable on a given floor. Comparative analysis of floors shows that dairy cows are uncomfortable on concrete floors because they are injurious. A comparative study shows that dairy cows prefer rubber floors to concrete floors because of the comfort that they experience (Rajapaksha and Tucker 295). Hence, it is evident that dairy cows require comfortable floors since they spend most of their time standing. When dairy cows stand on rough surfaces, they step more frequently than when they stand on smooth surfaces. Rough surfaces increase fatigue among dairy cows, as evidenced by their short period of standing. In this view, the housing of dairy cows requires consideration of designing floors to enhance comfort.

Possible Solutions

One of the solutions to reduce the emission of ammonia from dairy barns is to construct sloped floors. Given that slatted floors cause water to accumulate, they hasten fermentation or catalyze the formation of ammonia. Hence, the construction of sloped floors prevents the accumulation of dairy wastes, such as urine, feces, bacteria, and ureases. Braam, Ketelaars, and Smits state that sloped floors decrease the emission of ammonia by 21% when compared to the traditional floor (49). In this case, the sloppiness of the dairy floor is an integral element of construction, which significantly decreases the emission of ammonia in dairy barns. The construction of a V-shaped solid floor is also effective in reducing the emission of ammonia. The V-shaped solid floors comprise two floors, which drain to a central gutter that drains fresh urine to a slurry pit, hence, reducing the activity of ureases on the floors. According to Braam, Ketelaars, and Smits, a V-shaped solid floor reduces the rate of ammonia emission by 50% when compared to traditional slatted solid floors (49). As urine contains urea, a substrate that urease acts on and produces ammonia, quick removal from the dairy floor prevents the production of ammonia.

Moreover, sealing slurry pits and making them airtight is another appropriate solution that reduces the emission of ammonia. The slurry pit should be a distance away from the dairy barn to prevent ammonia from affecting the health of dairy cows. Since dairy cows require comfort for they stand for a long period, construction of a rubber floor is an appropriate solution to the discomfort associated with rough and slippery surfaces. The floors of concrete are rough, and thus, they predispose dairy cows to injuries on their hooves and legs. According to Rajapaksha and Tucker, cows are more comfortable when they stand on the rubber floor than on the concrete floor (295). Therefore, new construction of housing should consider making the floor of dairy housing soft to enhance comfort, but also sloppy to prevent the accumulation of wastes and production of ammonia.


  1. Do porous floors reduce the emission of ammonia in dairy barns?
  2. Do sloppy floors increase injuries due to falls?
  3. What is the relationship between stepping behavior and uncomfortable floor?
  4. How should the slurry pit be airtight to prevent leakage of ammonia?
  5. How does the shedding of dairy barns influence the emission of ammonia?
  6. What is the texture of the floor more comfortable for dairy cows?

Interesting Quotes

  • “When concrete floors were compared with a more compressible surface, such as rubber, cows spent more time standing on and showed preferences for rubber, indicating that concrete may be uncomfortable” (Rajapaksha and Tucker 295).
  • “Cows on 1-rough stepped twice as often with the rough-treated leg and one-half as much with the hind leg on smooth concrete compared with other surfaces” (Rajapaksha and Tucker 295).
  • “Functionally, cattle may engage in more movement the longer they stand to increase blood circulation and reduce venous pooling of blood in the muscles because both of these mechanisms are used to reduce muscle fatigue and discomfort in humans” (Rajapaksha and Tucker 303).
  • “The air velocity above the surface of slurry pit and the air exchange between the pit and house plays a key role in the ammonia emission from the pit” (Braam, Ketelaars, and Smits 50).
  • “Previous experiments with V-shaped solid floors demonstrated an ammonia emission reduction of 50% compared to slatted floors” (Braam, Ketelaars, and Smits 50)

Ideas that Come to the Mind

The design of dairy housing has a significant influence on the emission of ammonia and the comfort of dairy cows. Essentially, dairy cows constantly urinate and defecate on their floors, leading to the accumulation of wastes and the production of gases. Bacteria and urease enzyme acts on the wastes and urea, respectively, leading to increased production of gases. In this view, the design of dairy housing should ensure that there is no accumulation of water, urine, and feces. Regarding comfort, the construction of soft floors with rubber improves the comfort and prevents dairy cows from experiencing injuries on their legs and hooves.

Works Cited

Braam, Charles, Herbert Ketelaars, and Maurice Smits. “Effects of floor design and floor cleaning on ammonia emission from cubicle house for dairy cows.” Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science 45.1 (1997): 49-64. Print.

Rajapaksha, Eranda, and Cassaranda Tucker. “Stepping behavior and muscle activity of dairy cows on uncomfortable standing surfaces presented under 1 or 4 legs.” Journal of Dairy Science 98.1 (2015): 295-304. Print.

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