Lying times of lactating cows on dairy farms with automatic milking systems and the relation to lameness, leg lesions, and body condition score

By de Passille, A. M. and DeVries, T. J. and Pajor, E. A. and Pellerin, D. and Rushen, J. and Siegford, J. M. and Vasseur, E. and Vaughan, A. and Westin, R., Journal of Dairy Science, 2016
Lying down and resting are important for optimal cow health, welfare, and production. In comparison with free stall farms with a milking parlor, farms with automated milking systems (AMS) may place less constraint on how long cows can lie down. However, few studies report lying times on AMS farms. The aims of this study were to describe the variation in lying times of dairy cows in AMS farms and to understand how much of the variation in individual lying times is related to cow-level factors, including lameness, the presence of hock and knee lesions, and body condition score (BCS). We visited 36 farms in Canada (Quebec: n = 10; Ontario: n = 10; British Columbia: n = 4; and Alberta: n = 5), and the United States (Michigan: n = 7). Gait scores, presence of hock and knee lesions, and BCS were recorded for 40 Holstein cows from each herd. Parity and days in milk were retrieved from farm records. Lying time was recorded across 4 d using accelerometers (n = 1,377). Multivariable analysis was performed. Of scored cows, 15.1% were lame (i.e., obviously limping; 203 of 1,348 cows). Knee lesions were found in 27.1% (340 of 1,256 cows) and hock lesions were found in 30.8% (421 of 1,366 cows) of the animals. Daily lying time varied among cows. Cows spent a median duration of 11.4 h/d lying down (25th–75th percentile = 9.7–12.9 h), with a lying bout frequency of 9.5 bouts/d (25th–75th percentile = 7.5–12 bouts/d) and a median bout duration of 71 min (25th–75th percentile = 58–87 min/bout). Lameness was associated with cows lying down for 0.6 h/d longer in fewer, longer bouts. Increased lying time was also associated with increased parity, later stage of lactation and higher BCS. Older cows (parity ≥3) spent about 0.5 h/d more lying down compared with parity 1 cows, and cows with BCS ≥3.5 lay down on average 1 h/d longer than cows with BCS ≤2.25. Hock lesions were associated with shorter lying times in univariable models, but no associations were found in the multivariable models. We concluded that only a small proportion of the variation between cows in lying time is explained by lameness, leg lesions, and BCS.
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