Effect of rubber flooring on dairy cattle stepping behavior and muscle activity

Eranda Rajapaksha, Christoph Winkler, Cassandra B. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Use of compressible flooring, such as rubber, has increased on dairy farms. Rubber improves locomotion and is well used by cattle in preference experiments that combine walking and standing. Previous work has found that rubber is particularly beneficial for lame animals, perhaps because a softer material is particularly useful when a single hoof is compromised. The goal of this work was to evaluate the effect of flooring while standing, because cattle in freestall housing spend 40 to 50% of their time engaged in this behavior. In a 2. ×. 2 design, cows (n. = 16) were evaluated on 4 standing surfaces that varied in terms of both floor type (concrete or rubber) and presentation [same floor under all 4 legs (all 4 legs on either concrete or rubber) or a rough surface under only one hind leg and the other 3 legs on concrete or rubber] in a crossover design. Surface electromyograms were used to evaluate muscle fatigue, total activity, and movement of muscle activity between legs during 1 h of standing. Muscle fatigue was evaluated in 2 contexts: (1) static contractions when cows continuously transferred weight to each hind leg, before and after 1 h of standing, and (2) dynamic contractions associated with steps during 1 h on treatment surfaces. In addition, stepping rate, time between each consecutive step, and the latency to lie down after testing were measured. No interaction between floor type and presentation was found. Presentation had a significant effect; when one hind leg was on a rough surface, cattle took 1.7 times more steps with this leg and the non-rough hind leg had 1.2 times more muscle activity, compared with when all 4 legs were on the same surface. These changes are consistent with movement away from concrete with protrusions. When standing on rubber, muscle-activity movements among legs remained stable (0.6-0.7 movements per min) over 1 h but increased on concrete (0.6-0.9 movements per min), indicating that, like humans, cattle may sway to counteract effects of standing. However, additional work, including measurements of blood flow in the leg, is needed to fully understand the biological implications of these changes. Overall, the rubber flooring tested had little effect on standing behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2462-2471
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Behavior
  • Electromyogram
  • Muscle activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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