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Margit Bak Jensen

The effect of housing on calving behavior and calf vitality in Holstein and Jersey dairy cows

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The present study investigated how calving behavior and calf vitality in Holstein and Jersey dairy cows were affected by housing during the final 4 wk precalving.
One hundred twenty-one cows (36 primiparous and 85 multiparous) were moved either to a group pen with deep straw bedding or into freestall housing 4 wk before the expected calving date. Individual straw-bedded maternity pens were placed adjacent to the straw-bedded group pens, and cows were moved to the maternity pens before calving. Cows that spent more than 12 h in the maternity pen before calving and calved unassisted were included in this study (39 multiparous cows and 15 primiparous cows). Dams were observed from 6 h
before calving until 6 h after calving. The time from the onset of rhythmical abdominal contractions (defined as the onset of stage II labor), the time from a visible amniotic sac, and the time from visible calf feet until the birth of the calf were recorded. Furthermore, the cows’ latency to stand up after birth was recorded. Calves were observed during the first 6 h after birth and the latency to first standing attempt, to first successful standing, to first suckle attempt, and to first successful suckling were recorded. Cows previously housed in straw pens expelled the calf faster once the calves’ feet were visible compared with cows previously housed in freestalls. Multiparous cows stood sooner and licked their calf sooner after birth compared with primiparous cows. Jersey calves of cows previously housed in straw pens also stood up and suckled their dams sooner
compared with Jersey calves of cows previously housed in freestalls. Holstein cows previously housed in straw pens tended to stand up sooner compared with Holstein cows previously housed in freestalls. These results suggest that a longer period of housing on deep-bedded straw compared with freestalls with mattresses before calving may facilitate the calving process, whereas the effect on calf vitality needs further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume98
Pages (from-to)1797-1804
ISSN0022-0302
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

    Research areas

  • dairy cow, calving, transition, labor

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