Social Environment and Individual Differences in Feeding Behavior Are Associated with Risk of Endometritis in Dairy Cows Thompson, Alexander; Proudfoot, Kathryn L.; Franks, Becca; von Keyserlingk, Marina A.G.
Our aim was to determine whether individual differences in feeding and social behavior in different social environments affect health outcomes in dairy cows. We used eight groups of four animals per treatment assigned to either a ‘predictable’ or an ‘unpredictable’ and competitive social environment. Predictable cows were given free access to six feed bins with no change in feed delivery times; whereas, the unpredictable cows were required to share one feed bin with one resident cow and morning feed was delayed 0, 1, 2, or 3 h every other day. On alternate days, the unpredictable cows were also re-assigned to a new bin and a new resident partner. Low daily dry matter intake (DMI) was a risk factor for cytological endometritis in predictable cows (odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval): 0.17 (0.02, 0.53)), but low daily DMI was protective for unpredictable cows (OR: 1.93 (1.09, 4.14)). Although low rate of DMI (kg/min) was a risk factor for cytological endometritis for predictable cows (OR: 4.2 × 10⁻¹⁰¹ (8.6 × 10⁻²⁰⁶, 4.8 × 10⁻³⁰)) it was unrelated to disease for unpredictable cows. There were no associations between feed bin visits or percentage of non-nutritive visits with the likelihood of cytological endometritis. This is the first evidence that individual differences in feeding behavior influence cytological endometritis risk in dairy cows, but the direction and magnitude of these effects is dependent on the social environment.
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