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Changes in the behaviour of dairy cows during the 24 h before normal calving compared with behaviour during late pregnancy

By H. M. Miedema, M. S. Cockram, C. M. Dwyer, A. I. Macrae

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Dairy cows require individual monitoring around the time of calving to identify any calving difficulties or health problems as early as possible. To assist with the monitoring of parturition, it would be beneficial to understand the behaviour of dairy cows that is associated with normal calving. This study systematically quantified the behaviour of cows to identify what changes in behaviour occur during the 24 h before normal calving compared with that quantified during pre-calving observations during late pregnancy. The behaviour of twenty Holstein-Friesian cows was recorded for 24 h prior to the calf being expelled and for a 24-hour control period during late pregnancy. Continuous focal observations from video recordings were used to quantify daily frequencies and durations of behaviours. Comparisons were made between daily totals recorded in the 24 h before calving and during the control period and each observation was also divided into four six-hour periods to help determine the time when changes occurred before calving. Segmented regression lines were also fitted to identify the point when behaviour changed before calving. The frequencies of lying and tail raising showed consistent increases in the final six-hour period before calving and a significant break point in their segmented regressions. Durations of lying, walking, eating and ground-licking, and number of walking bouts, did not show consistent changes at the time of calving. This study has shown that counting tail raises or transitions between standing and lying could potentially be useful predictors of calving within the following six hours.

Date 2011
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 131
Issue 1/2
Pages 8-14
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.01.012
Language English
Author Address Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute, Division of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. animal breed
  3. Animal genetics
  4. Animal reproduction
  5. Automation
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Birth
  8. Breeds
  9. Calves
  10. Cattle
  11. Comparisons
  12. Dairy animals
  13. Gestation
  14. Health
  15. Illnesses
  16. Mammals
  17. monitoring
  18. peer-reviewed
  19. predictions
  20. predictors
  21. pregnancy
  22. Ruminants
  23. surveillance
  24. video recordings
  1. peer-reviewed