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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assessing cow comfort using lying behaviour and lameness Ito, Kiyomi


Over the past decade, there has been growth in scientific research on welfare in modern dairy production systems. The issue of cow comfort and how it relates to the risk of lameness has received considerable interest. The objectives of this thesis were to establish reliable methods of using lying behaviour as a measure of cow comfort, to describe the variation in lying behaviour of individual cows within farm and between farms, and to evaluate the relationship between stall comfort, lying behaviour, and lameness. A cross-farm assessment was conducted on 43 commercial dairy farms in the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia. Electronic data loggers recorded lying behaviour of 2033 cows at 1-min intervals for 5 days. The first study established that monitoring at least 30 cows per farm for 3 days provides an accurate estimate of the lying behaviour of the lactating cows at that time. Cows averaged 11 h/d lying down, separated into 9 bouts/d with an average duration of 88 min/bout. Cows were scored for lameness using a 5-point Numerical Rating System (NRS) in which 1 = sound and 5 = severely lame. A subsample of 1319 cows from 28 farms using either deep-bedded stalls (n = 11) or mattress stalls (n = 17) were used for the second study. Overall, 21% of the cows were scored as NRS = 3 and 7% as NRS = 4; no cow was scoared as NRS = 5. Mattress farms had higher prevalence of NRS = 4 compared to deep-bedded farms (9 vs. 4%, respectively). Cows with NRS = 4 housed on deep-bedded stalls spent 1.6 h/d more lying, and had longer bouts compared to cows with NRS ≤ 3, but there were no behavioural differences among cows with different degrees of lameness housed on mattress stalls. Extreme lying behaviour, particularly the high lying times (≥ 14 h/d) and long lying bouts (≥ 99 min/bout) were associated with increased odds of lameness, regardless of stall surface. Stall comfort, lying behaviour, and lameness are interlinked, and should all be integrated as measures of cow comfort.

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