UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dairy cattle preference for different types of outdoor access and their influence on dairy cattle behaviour Smid, Anne-Marieke Cathérine


Worldwide, the public views pasture as important for dairy cattle to have a good life; dairy cows are highly motivated to access pasture. However, the majority of dairy cows in North America are housed indoors year-round and globally, pasture access is declining. Alternative outdoor areas generally require less space than pasture and may thus be easier to implement. In this dissertation, I examined dairy cow preference for various outdoor areas and how these areas influenced cow behaviour. Chapter 1 reviews how tie- and free-stall housing influence cattle behaviour and how this compares when cows are kept on, or given access to, pasture or another type of outdoor area. Chapter 2 investigates the preference of free-stall housed cows for an outdoor sand pack versus a pasture during the night. When provided simultaneous access to both options, cows spent more time on pasture than on the sand pack (90.5±2.6% versus 0.8±0.5% of the night respectively). When only pasture was available, cows spent 90.0±5.9% of their time outside; this declined to 44.4±6.3% of their time when only a sand pack was available. Chapter 3 investigates cow preference for an outdoor wood-chip pack during summer and winter. Cows spent 25.3±4.3% of their time outside in summer and 1.8±0.6% in winter. In summer, cows spent more time on the outdoor pack during the night (50.0±8.4%) than during the day (3.3±1.3%), but this effect was absent in winter (day:1.7± 0.7%; night:2.1±1.0%). Chapter 4 examines the effect of outdoor space allowance on cow behaviour and preference to be outdoors. During the night, cows spent more time outside with increasing outdoor space; outdoor space did not affect the number of agonistic interactions outside. Chapter 5 investigates the effects of an outdoor pack on oestrus behaviours and showed that access to an outdoor pack facilitated the expression of these behaviours. Overall, dairy cows have a partial preference for an alternative outdoor area but preferred pasture over an outdoor sand pack during the night, potentially due to a bigger space allowance on pasture or due to the ability to graze; access to an outdoor pack facilitates oestrus behaviours.

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