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The effect of transition cow housing on lying and feeding behavior in Holstein dairy cows

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The present study investigated the effect of straw yard housing during the dry period and 2 d of additional maternity pen housing postcalving on lying and feeding behavior and calving difficulty in Holstein dairy cows. In this study, 122 multiparous cows were moved to either a straw yard or into freestall housing 4 wk before their expected calving date. Cows that had been housed in straw yards stayed in the maternity pen for an additional 2 d after their calving day, but cows that had been housed in freestalls were moved to the general lactation group the morning after calving. Lying time, lying bouts, feeding time, number of feeder visits, feed intake, feeding rate, and assisted calvings were recorded. Observations were divided into 2 periods: precalving (the 4-wk dry period before calving) and postcalving (the day of calving and the 2 d after). During the precalving period, cows housed in straw yards showed a higher number of lying bouts but no difference in lying time compared with cows housed in freestalls. Cows that were housed longer in the straw-bedded maternity pen postcalving spent more time lying during the 2 d postcalving and had a higher number of lying bouts on the day of calving than cows moved to the freestall area on the day postcalving. Additionally, cows that were housed longer in the maternity pen had a slower feeding rate and longer total feeding time during the 2 d after calving than cows with a shorter stay in the maternity pen. We found no difference in the number of assisted calvings. This study suggests that straw yard housing during the dry period may facilitate the transition between standing and lying. Furthermore, the extended stay in the maternity pen postcalving increased lying time, the number of lying bouts, and feeding time, but decreased feeding rate compared with cows that were moved to the general lactation group on the day postcalving. These results suggest potential recovery benefits with an extended stay in a maternity pen postcalving. However, further studies are needed to separate the effects of housing in the dry period and the effects of an extended housing in individual maternity pens.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Pages (from-to)7398-7407
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

    Research areas

  • behavior, dairy cow, straw yard, transition period

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