UBC Research Data

Data for: The effects of social environment on standing behavior and the development of claw horn lesions Weary, D.M; von Keyserlingk, M.A.G; Eriksson, H.K


The primary aim of this prospective experimental study was to evaluate how the social environment after calving influenced standing behavior in primiparous cows. At calving, primiparous cows were mixed with familiar peers in a low-stocked pen (≤ 33% stocking density; n=22) or mixed with unknown older cows at 100% stocking density (n = 20). All study animals were mixed with older cows 3 wk after calving. Time spent standing and perching (standing with only the front feet in the stall) were measured d 1 to 3 after calving using 5 min scan sampling. To evaluate if the low-stocked treatment constituted a low-stress social environment, agonistic interactions at the feed barrier were measured for 90 min following feed delivery for a subsample of animals in both treatments (12 animals/treatment). The daily behavioral time budget, including the 90 min following milking, was examined for this subset of animals. A secondary aim was to assess if the social environment after calving was related to the risk of developing claw horn lesions later in lactation. Sole and white-line lesions were recorded at wk 6 and 12 postpartum, and animals were categorized as either having or not having at least one hemorrhage of severity ≥3 (scale 1 to 5) for each lesion type and assessment. Prolonged standing after regrouping was not observed, and standing time and time spent perching did not differ between treatments. Agonistic behaviors directed towards the focal animals occurred less frequently in the low-stocked pen compared to the control. The number and severity of sole and white-line lesions increased after calving; at wk 6 postpartum 20% of the animals in the low-stocked treatment and 50% of the animals mixed with older cows had white-line hemorrhages of severity score ≥3. In summary, under the conditions of this study social environment did not influence standing behavior, but did affect agonistic interactions and likely influenced the risk of claw horn lesions in the weeks following calving.

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