More than 95% of dairy farms in Thailand house cows in tie stall barns, in which each animal is tied up in a stall for resting, feeding, milking, and watering. Typical stall barns have concrete floor for easy maintenance and cleaning. However, concrete flooring can negatively affect cow health. Hard and abrasive concrete floors can lead to the development of leg fatigue and lameness due to increased pressure on cow's legs and other diseases that affect milk production. Accumulation of moisture due to frequent washing also promotes algal growth on the concrete floor, resulting in a slippery surface and thus increasing risk of slip and fall injuries. Cows suffering acute injuries have low milk production and therefore are prematurely slaughtered.

Softer flooring is a solution to prevent lameness and injuries. There are numerous types and grades of soft flooring available on the market. Rubber mats that meet industrial standards can be expensive, whereas the cheaper kind is made from foam which has a shorter lifespan. Inexpensive substandard rubber mats tend to contain high level of toxic chemicals that have adverse effects on animal health and the environment.

To present a better solution for the dairy industry, MTEC-NSTDA initiated a project to develop eco-friendly rubber flooring for cattle barns. Dr. Puchong Thaptong, member of MTEC Environmentally Friendly Rubber Products Research Team explained that premium-grade zinc oxide is used in the rubber formulation, as a result the rubber mat contains low level of zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is an essential ingredient in rubber compounding. It is added to give rubber specific beneficial properties, but it is also regarded as a toxic material. Therefore, the challenge for the research team is to achieve the right amount to ensure the functionality of the product and its safety to animal health and the environment.

This rubber flooring has been tested and found to meet the TIS 2584-2556 standard for rubber sheet for livestock.  Field study of this product has been conducted at Utumpon Farm in Ratchaburi in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Theera Rukkwamsuk of Kasetsart University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The study which enters its fourth year showed that the rubber flooring is durable, can effectively reduce cow injuries and has no negative effect on milk quality. More field studies will be performed in collaboration with the Dairy Farming Promotion Organization of Thailand (DPO).

“Apart from minimizing cow injuries and offering safety to animal health and the environment, this rubber flooring also supports Thai rubber farmers as the product contains 50% natural latex,” added Dr. Puchong.