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In 2 experiments, free-stall dimensions were examined to determine how they affected stall preference, usage, cleanliness, and milk production in Holstein dairy cattle. In experiment 1, stall width (112 or 132 cm) and stall length (229 and 274 cm from curb to wall) were compared in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of stall treatments using 15 individually housed, non-lactating animals. Cows showed no clear preference for stall size as measured by lying time. When animals had no choice between stalls, average lying time was higher in the wide stalls than in the narrow stalls (10.8 vs. 9.6 ± 0.3 h/24 h). Both length and width affected time spent standing with only the front hooves in the stall; total stall area is best explained by the variation associated with this behavior. In experiment 2, 27 lactating dairy cattle were alternately housed with access to stalls of 106, 116, or 126 cm in width using a cross-over design with exposure to each treatment lasting 3 wk. Animals spent an additional 42 min/24 h lying in stalls measuring 126 cm in width compared with stalls with only 106 cm between partitions. Free-stall width influenced the time spent standing with the front 2 hooves in the stall; animals averaged 58 min/24 h in the widest stalls and 85 min/24 h in the narrowest stalls. The amount of time spent standing with all 4 hooves in the stall tended to be longer in wider stalls, and these stalls were also most likely to become soiled with feces. Stall width did not affect the number of lying events or milk production. In conclusion, animals spent more time lying down, and less time was spent standing with only the front hooves in larger stalls, but larger stalls were also more likely to become soiled.


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