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Title: Effects of rubber flooring during the first 2 lactations on production, locomotion, hoof health, immune functions, and stress

item Eicher, Susan
item Lay Jr, Donald
item ARTHINGTON, J - University Of Florida
item SCHUTZ, MICHAEL - Purdue University

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/21/2013
Publication Date: 4/12/2013
Citation: Eicher, S.D., Lay Jr, D.C., Arthington, J.D., Schutz, M.M. 2013. Effects of rubber flooring during the first two lactations on production, locomotion, hoof health, immune functions, and stress. Journal of Dairy Science. 96:3639-3651.

Interpretive Summary: Rubber was compared with concrete flooring during the first and second lactations. Important production measures, such as milk fat and protein, were less for cows on concrete. The number of hoof therapies required was greater for those housed on concrete and cows housed on concrete had worse locomotion in the second lactation. Cows housed on concrete had greater white blood cell counts, particularly in the second lactation, indicating an on-going inflammation. Additionally, greater expression of inflammatory cell mediators (cytokines) confirms the presence of a chronic inflammation. These data support the use of rubber flooring for cow health and comfort, potentially reducing chronic inflammation that affects many aspects of production and health.

Technical Abstract: Some housing can result in long-term chronic pain. Acute pain on immunity has been explored, but chronic pain influence on immune responses is poorly understood. Therefore the objective of this research was to determine chronic effects on immune responses and production of flooring in free-stall housing for dairy cows. Thirty heifers were studied from prior to calving as first-calf heifers until d 180 of their second lactation. Treatments were rubber (Kraiburg) flooring or concrete with diamond grooves in a free stall barn, each in 2 quadrants of a free-stall barn. Heifers entered the treatments after calving, so the system was dynamic and each cow was considered an experimental unit. At the end of the first lactation, cows were housed in a bedded pack barn with pasture access until calving was imminent. At that time they returned to their assigned treatment, but not necessarily into the same quadrant. Production, reproduction, and health data were recorded throughout both lactations, locomotion scored weekly, hoof scoring and care was conducted on d 60 and 180 of lactations 1 and 2, cortisol, acute phase proteins, and qRT-PCR analysis of blood leukocytes was analyzed. Mature equivalent milk fat, milk protein, and protein % during the 1st lactation increased for cows on the rubber flooring. Therapy treatments per cow were less for rubber floor housed cows. Locomotion scores were improved for cows housed on rubber during the 2nd lactation. White blood cell counts were less for cows housed on rubber, caused by greater lymphocytes counts for cows housed on concrete. The possibility of chronic inflammation was substantiated by less interleukin (Il)-1 beta and more IL-1 receptor antagonist for cows housed on rubber at d 150 in the second lactation. Cortisol and acute phase proteins did not differ between the treatments. Interferon-gamma, IL-12, and the modulator of tissue reconstruction B-cell transforming growth factor 1, and pain modulating neurokinin, tachykinin 1 were not different at d 105. These data show indicators of chronic inflammation for cows housed on the concrete flooring compared with those housed on rubber. Implications are that the flooring in free-stall barns is broader than just lameness and affects many aspects of cow physiology and production.