Chaplin, Sarah Jane
Resting behaviour of dairy cows: applications to farm assurance and welfare.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Lying is a restful, high priority behaviour for dairy cows which can be affected by various factors associated with production but is not directly related to productivity. As such, lying behaviour has potential for use as an indicator of welfare. Information in the literature regarding the effect of stage of lactation on lying behaviour was contradictory and information on optimum lying behaviour and maximum bout lengths was scarce. The aim of this study was to improve knowledge in these areas and find a way of using lying behaviour to assess welfare.
Pregnant heifers were observed at pasture in order to describe lying behaviour in conditions that may be considered optimum. Lying behaviour at pasture was characterised as having 10.5 h total lying time per 24h, few (6-7) lying bouts and a long maximum bout length (3.5h).
The effect of two very different levels of production on the lying behaviour of heifers during their first lactation and housing period was compared. Although total lying times did not change much over the lactation, early location was associated with disturbed lying behaviour (increased lying frequency and short bout lengths) and indicators of metabolic challenge in low input heifers. High input heifers however, showed more disturbance later in lactation associated with being moved to another feeding group.
Two pilot studies were carried out to investigate cows' preferences for cubicles with mats or mattresses and to compare lying behaviour on the two surfaces. Social factors appeared to affect preference and lying behaviour. Consequently total lying times were very low (less than 8h) and preferences were not clear. However, lying times were low even in a group of undisturbed late lactation cows and the pattern of lying (number of bouts and maximum bout length) was similar to that of heifers at grass.
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