Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Melissa Morgan


Improving housing for dairy cattle is of interest because hoof and udder health, which are associated with the housing environment, are important economic and welfare issues. The objectives were: 1) to assess the influence of housing––conventional cubicle (CCD) vs compost bedded pack (CBP),––and management (grazing vs semi-grazing) on the performance and welfare in dairy cows 2) describe the performance of the CBP under a grazing or semi-grazing system, and 3) to assess viability of CBP housing in a pasture-based system. This study mixes three research approaches, an analysis of existing and secondary data; an experiment, and a case-study. If taken out of context and used in isolation, this mix of methods would lead to ambiguity and confusion. But in the context of the Malawi dairy industry, it is by mixing these methods that we can best inform farmer’s decisions about the type of structures that best serve them individually and the Malawian dairy industry as a whole. Cows were evaluated weekly for udder, hock, and hoof health, under a grazing (cows kept at pasture for 33 to 42% of the day) and semi-grazing system (cows kept at pasture for 16.67% of the day). No difference was observed between grazing and semi-grazing system regarding milk yield, hoof, hock, and udder health. Sub-clinical high SCC and SCC were 22% and 48% lower in the CBP barn than in the CCD barn. Cows in the CBP produced 1.2 kg per cow/day more milk than cows in CCD. No difference in CBP performance was observed under a grazing or semi-grazing system. Partial budget analysis showed that CBP was viable with net returns of $881. The benefits of the CBP over CCD are $ 1425 per year, but it would take an investment of $5368. The farmer would be expected to pay back the investment in 3.77 years.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

United States Agency for International Development, as part of the Feed the Future initiative, under the CGIAR Fund, award number BFS-G-11-00002, and the predecessor fund the Food Security and Crisis Mitigation II grant, award number EEM-G-00-04-00013.

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Life Sciences Commons