Short communication: Lying behavior of lactating dairy cows is influenced by lameness especially around feeding time

By Bach, A. and Guasch, I. and Yunta, C., Journal of Dairy Science, 2012
Lameness is considered one of the most common welfare and productive problems in dairy cattle. The objective of this study was to evaluate differences in lying behavior between moderately lame and nonlame lactating cows under commercial conditions. Data were collected from 10 free-stall commercial herds, which were feeding on exactly the same ration once daily. All lactating cows were scored for lameness according to a 1 to 5 locomotion scoring system. Only cows with a lameness score between 1 and 4 were considered in the study. In each herd, between 10 and 15 lame cows (scored as 3 or 4) were chosen, and for each lame cow, a nonlame cow (scored as 1) within the same parity and similar days in milk was also selected. Pendant data loggers were then placed on the right hind leg of each cow for 10 d to record lying behavior at 1-min intervals. In addition, the time of feed delivery was recorded in each herd on a daily basis. Total daily lying time, daily number of lying bouts, lying bout duration, laterality (side of recumbence), and lying behavior around feed delivery time were evaluated using a mixed-effects model that accounted for the fixed effects of lameness, days in milk, parity, and the interaction between parity and lameness, plus the random effects of herd. Total daily lying time (721 ± 24.2 min/d) tended to increase with days in milk, but it was not affected by lameness or parity. Likewise, no differences were found in the number of lying bouts (9.6 ± 0.49/d) or laterality (47 ± 2.6% of time lying on the right side). However, the mean bout duration was longer in lame (89.3 ± 3.89 min) compared with nonlame (80.7 ± 3.90 min) cows. It is interesting that lame cows stood up 13 min later than nonlame cows relative to the time when the ration was delivered. In addition, lame cows lay down 19 min earlier than nonlame ones after the feed was delivered, which implies that nonlame cows spent more time standing, and probably eating, than did lame cows. It was concluded that lame cows have longer lying bouts than nonlame animals, and that lying behavior around feed delivery time may be an effective proxy to identify moderately lame cows.
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