In the pasture, the daily lying time of cows is approx. 10 hours, that of bulls approx. 12 hours. In medium-length stalls (with bedding), on the other hand, 14 hours and in short stalls (without bedding) 13 hours. During this time, cattle sleep only about 30 minutes. A lying period usually lasts about 0.5 – 3 hours, so a cow will get up and lie down a few times per day.
During the long rest periods at noon or night, the cow gets up, stretches, and lies right back down (usually) on her other side. Cattle spend over half of their lives lying down.
A dairy cow gets up and lies down about 16 times a day, or between 5,000 and 7,000 times a year.
Lying down is important because:
- the cow rests and ruminates
- the claws can recover and dry off
- there is more space for the other cows in the alleys
- the blood circulation through the udder increases by up to 30 % (a reduced lying time therefore reduces the milk yield.
Rank position, body weight, and breed have an influence on lying time. High-ranking cattle lie down longer than low-ranking cattle, and heavy cattle lie down longer than light cattle. For example, black and white cows have significantly shorter lying times than red and white cows.
Each time a cow lies down, about two-thirds of her body weight (between 500 and 650 kg, depending on breed and stage of lactation) rests on her knees. Her knees drop freely to the floor from a height of about 20 to 30 cm. Therefore, the quality of the stall flooring is important so that the cow can lie down without pain -whenever she wants. A very simple test is to observe how quickly the cow lies down in the stall. If it takes her longer than five minutes on average, you should check the stall and stall flooring.
So an ironic conclusion is the following. First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.