A NEW PORTABLE INSTRUMENT TO EVALUATE SOFT FLOORING MATERIALS IN DAIRY COW HOUSING
AbstractThe improvement of flooring materials performance on animal health and welfare requires the support of reliable testing techniques. This is particularly relevant with the synthetic soft coverings used for walking areas since the friction coefficient is not only dependent on the surface characteristics, but also on the penetration of the animal hoof into the material. The paper presents the functioning of a new instrument capable of reproducing more closely the real interaction between the floor surface and the animal foot. The instrument is simple and portable and is suitable both for laboratory measurements and real housing conditions. The measurement is made in two steps: first a probe, shaped as a cow hoof and contacting the testing floor surface, is loaded with a vertical force to obtain a pressure similar to that exerted by the animal; then a pushing force parallel to the floor is applied, at a constant speed, producing a displacement along the surface. The values of the vertical and horizontal strengths required for skidding and the angle of the instrument are continuously measured and by them various parameters can be calculated. The results of the tests carried out in the laboratory and in real dairy houses are presented and, through the analysis of various calculated physical parameters, the main floor properties – more suitable for a previous estimate of the effect on animal welfare – are determined and discussed. In particular, the IPF parameter has been the only one able to predict also the foot escape among all the considered parameters.
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Copyright (c) 2012 Paolo Liberati
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