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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Feeding behaviour identifies dairy cows at risk of subclinial ketosis during the transition period Goldhawk, Christy Anne


Cows diagnosed with subclinical ketosis (SCK) after calving are at increased risk of developing other diseases and compromised reproductive performance. The objective of this study was to determine if changes in voluntary feeding and social behaviours during the transition period, consisting of the 3 wk before and 3 wk after calving, could identify dairy cows at elevated risk of SCK during the week after calving. The feeding behaviours of 101 Holstein dairy cows were monitored from 3 wk before to 3 wk after calving. Ten animals were identified as having SCK by serum BHBA levels ≥1000µmol/L during wk +1, but were otherwise healthy. These animals were compared with 10 healthy animals, balanced for parity. Displacements at the feed bunk were measured during peak feeding times on 3 d during the week before calving. During the wk before calving and the 2 wk after calving, animals with SCK had lower dry matter intake (DMI), fewer visits to the feeder and spent less time at the feeder than healthy animals. For every 10 min decrease in average daily time spent at the feeder during the week before calving, the risk of SCK increased by 1.9 times. During the same week, a 1 kg decrease in average daily DMI increased the risk of SCK by 2.2 times. The largest increase in risk of SCK was associated with a 1 kg decrease in the change in average daily DMI from wk -2 to wk -1. During the week before calving, SCK animals initiated fewer displacements at the feed bunk when compared to animals that remained healthy after calving. The results of this study provide evidence that the amount of time spent feeding, DMI and social behaviour are associated with the development of SCK after calving. These results indicate that special consideration should be given to management and social factors that can negatively affect feeding behaviour during the transition period.

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