Cow behaviour on a new grooved floor in comparison with a slatted floor, taking claw health and floor properties into account

By Braam, C. R. and Hendriks, M. M. W. B. and Stefanowska, J. and Swierstra, D., Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2001
The objective of this study was to compare the behaviour of cows on a grooved floor with that of cows kept on a slatted floor. The trial was carried out with two groups of 12 Holstein–Friesian cows kept in a cowshed with two symmetrical halves, identical except for the floor. One floor was grooved longitudinally to the feeding fence (width of grooves 35 mm) and the other was slatted (gaps 35 mm wide) perpendicular to the feeding fence. Both floors had scrapers to remove manure. After 3 weeks of being kept on these two floors, cows were switched between floors for 3 weeks. In the third week of each 3-week-period, behavioural observations of cows related to their time budget over 24 h, relocation on each floor indicated by index of movement and specific behaviours (aggression, self maintenance) performed on the floors were executed. The health of claws was examined before the trial and 6 weeks later, after the trial. The grooved floor influenced the cows’ daily time budget: cows kept on the grooved floor stood less (P<0.05) with four legs inside the cubicles (group 1: 36 min, group 2: 39 min) than cows kept on the slatted floor (group 1: 57 min, group 2: 60 min). Neither the specific behaviours of cows nor their movement performed on both floors were different. After switching from the grooved floor to the slatted floor, cows lay for 669 min a day (in comparison to 746 min a day while kept on the grooved floor, P<0.05) and they stood parallel to the feeding fence for 174 min a day (in comparison to 126 min a day while kept on the grooved floor, P<0.05). Given that both groups of cows on the grooved floor and the group that began on the slatted floor had a similar daily time budget, it is possible that the different time budget of the remaining group, which started off on the grooved floor, was a reaction (pleasure or disappointment) induced by returning to the familiar floor. The grooved floor was more fouled with faeces (P<0.05) than the slatted floor. The grooved floor can be evaluated as being equal to the slatted floor with a scraper in terms of the behaviour performed on it. There were hardly any slip incidents on it (during 64 h of observations, two slip incidents on the grooved floor, four slip incidents on the slatted floor). However, the occurrence of stumble incidents involving the manure scraper (66 cases on the grooved floor and 48 on the slatted floor during 64 h of observations) and the occurrence of foot lesions (probably of traumatic origin) suggests that the functioning of the manure scraper, which is indispensable on grooved floors, needs to be optimised.
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