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Margit Bak Jensen

Preferences of lame cows for type of surface and level of social contact in hospital pens

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To investigate preferences of lame cows for flooring and level of social contact, 37 lame, lactating dairy cows (diagnosed with sole ulcer or white line disease) were housed individually for 6 d in experimental hospital pens, where they could choose between 2 equally sized areas (6m × 4.5m) with either deep-bedded sand or a rubber surface. On both surfaces, cows could choose between 2 equally sized areas either near or away from heifers in a neighboring group pen. Cows spent more time lying on the deep-bedded sand than on the rubber surface (870 vs. 71min/d), whereas they spent less time upright (standing or walking) on the sand than on the rubber surface (180 vs. 319min/d). In addition, cows spent less time self-grooming on the sand than on the rubber surface (2.2 vs. 4.7% of time spent upright). With regard to level of social contact, cows spent more time near the neighboring heifers than away from them; this was true both while lying (565 vs. 374min/d) and upright (276 vs. 223min/d). Self-grooming was seen significantly more near neighboring heifers than away from them (4.8 vs. 3.3% of time spent upright). When lying, cows more often positioned themselves in areas of the pen where they could maintain visual contact with neighboring heifers. Lame cows with sole ulcers or white line disease preferred deep-bedded sand for lying, and preferred to perform self-grooming while on the rubber surface. Similarly, they preferred to lie and to perform self-grooming while positioned near animals in a neighboring pen. These results suggest that provision of a deep-bedded lying area in hospital pens is important to the welfare of lame cows. We found no evidence of isolation-seeking behavior in animals with these diagnoses (and no systemic symptoms) while they were kept in individual hospital pens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)4552-4559
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

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    Research areas

  • bedding, behavior, flooring, lameness, social contact

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