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Behaviour and adrenal activity of first parturition and multiparous cows under a competitive situation

By M. Gonzalez, A. K. Yabuta, F. Galindo

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First parturition cows have to cope with several changes in their environment that can compromise their welfare and health. In addition to being separated from their calves they have to compete for eating and lying places with older and more experienced cows once they are introduced to the milking herd. The aim of this study was to compare the social and maintenance behaviour, and plasma cortisol levels after an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge test of first parturition cows with those of adult cows. Thirty cows from the same herd, 15 in each group, were observed during 178 h in a cubicle building where social and maintenance behaviour was recorded. An adrenal function test was carried out after the observation period to determine cortisol levels in plasma before and after ACTH injection (-60, 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, and 210 min). First parturition cows spent more time walking and lying out of the cubicle during a 24-h period and during the night than adult cows (P<0.05). Adult cows had on average a higher index of displacement than first lactation cows (P<0.05). Cortisol levels at 60 and 90 min after injection of ACTH were lower in adult cows than in first parturition individuals (P<0.05). In heifers, the proportion of time feeding during the day was negatively correlated with cortisol levels at 60 and 90 min after ACTH administration, and in multiparous cows the proportion of time lying out of the cubicles in a 24 h cycle and lying out during the night were positively correlated to cortisol levels at 60 min after ACTH administration. This information is useful to understand more about chronic stress in first lactation cows when introduced to a new herd and to make recommendations of management procedures to reduce welfare problems in these individuals.

Date 2003
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 83
Issue 4
Pages 259-266
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(03)00037-6
Language English
Author Address Departamento de Etologia y Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 Mexico City, D.F., Mexico.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adrenal glands
  2. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
  3. Age
  4. Animal behavior
  5. Animal reproduction
  6. Animal rights
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  9. Birth
  10. Calves
  11. Cattle
  12. Cortisol
  13. Dairy animals
  14. Hydrocortisone
  15. Lactation
  16. Mammals
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Ruminants
  1. peer-reviewed