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Farm Animal Practice
Cows and cubicles
  1. John Hughes

    John Hughes qualified in dairy husbandry at the University of Wales, and then spent six years on the family farm before joining MAFF's Advisory Service, where he worked on promoting dairy hygiene and the control of mastitis. Subsequently, in association with the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Liverpool, he became involved in the study of lameness in dairy cows and participated in research projects relating to welfare, housing and walking surfaces. He is an honorary associate of the RCVS and the BCVA and, in addition to an honorary lectureship at Liverpool University, he currently practises as an independent dairy consultant.


THE modern Holstein cow is a very different animal from her Friesian, Ayrshire and Shorthorn ancestors which she has now largely replaced. Breeding technology developed over recent years has hastened this change. On average, she is approximately 15 cm (6') taller at the shoulder and 30 cm (1') longer from nose to tail than the conventional Friesian. She produces up to three times as much milk, which means that with a fully stocked udder she has to carry around, with milk and tissue, the equivalent of 50 kg between her legs. As a result, she is more stressed and more vulnerable and, to perform to her potential, she has a correspondingly increased need to be housed in comfort and cleanliness. Unfortunately, the modern dairy cow has largely inherited cubicle sheds designed 25 to 30 years ago for her smaller and more hardy predecessors. The adverse consequences often manifest themselves in mastitis, foot lameness, and swollen hocks, hips and knees.

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