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The effect of breed and housing system on dairy cow feeding and lying behaviour

By K. O'Driscoll, L. Boyle, A. Hanlon

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In Ireland there is growing interest in managing dairy cows on out-wintering pads (OWPs) during the winter, as a low cost alternative to housing indoors. This study investigated feeding and lying behaviour of two breeds of dairy cow (Holstein-Friesian and Norwegian Red) at pasture (PAS) and in winter (WIN) confinement. Cows (n=36) were managed as one herd while lactating at PAS, then dried off on entering WIN on 17 November 2005 and assigned to one of the three treatments using a randomised complete block design: (1) indoor matted cubicles [IC], (2) unsheltered OWP [UP] and (3) sheltered OWP [CP] (feed system=concrete feedface). Feeding behaviour was recorded for 1x24 h period during PAS and WIN using IGER grazing behaviour recorders. Standing/lying was recorded every 5 min for 2x24 h periods at PAS and 1x24 h period during WIN using modified voltage dataloggers (Tinytag Plus, Chichester, UK). Although not compared statistically, cows spent more time feeding at PAS (530.7+or-69.66 min/day) than in any winter confinement system (UP, IC, CP=453.9+or-37.36, IC=462.7+or-37.31 and CP=505.9+or-37.36 min/day). In contrast, cows spent more time lying during the winter period (UP, IC, CP=11.7+or-0.45, IC=10.8+or-0.39 and CP=11.0+or-0.39 h/day) than when at PAS (9.4 h/day). Holstein-Friesian cows had a higher bite rate and fewer mastications while feeding, than Norwegian Red cows (P<0.05 for both). Shorter feeding times at WIN were likely primarily due to lower metabolic requirements associated with the dry period, although the higher fibre content of the silage may also have contributed. The increase in ruminating times between PAS and WIN is likely also due to the higher fibre content of silage than grass. Differences in feeding behaviour between breeds may be indicative of reduced motivation to ingest food quickly. This may be an indirect consequence of a selection index that has led to improvements in body condition and self-maintenance. The similarity in lying and feeding times during WIN indicates that during these winter weather conditions the feeding and lying behaviour of cows on unsheltered OWPs was not inhibited compared with sheltered cows.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 116
Issue 2/4
Pages 156-162
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.08.003
Language English
Author Address Moorepark Dairy Production Research Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Irish Republic.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal nutrition
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Body condition
  7. Breed differences
  8. British Isles
  9. Buildings
  10. Cattle
  11. Commonwealth of Nations
  12. Composition
  13. Dairy animals
  14. Developed countries
  15. Dog Breeds
  16. Effect
  17. Europe
  18. Feeding
  19. Feeding behavior
  20. Fiber
  21. Foraging
  22. Grasslands and rangelands
  23. Grazing
  24. Great Britain
  25. Ireland
  26. Mammals
  27. Meteorology
  28. OECD countries
  29. pastures
  30. peer-reviewed
  31. Ruminants
  32. seasons
  33. Selection
  34. United Kingdom
  35. weather
  36. winter
  1. peer-reviewed