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Reliability and feasibility of selected measures concerning resting behaviour for the on-farm welfare assessment in dairy cows

By G. Plesch, N. Broerkens, S. Laister, C. Winckler, U. Knierim

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Resting is important for regeneration and disturbances are welfare relevant as they may be associated with insufficient recuperation, frustration, discomfort or pain and increased risk for health problems such as lameness or lesions. As part of the Welfare QualityReg. project this study aimed to identify feasible and reliable resting measures in terms of inter-observer reliability (IOR) and consistency of results per farm over time that can be included in an on-farm welfare assessment protocol. Altogether 15 measures were investigated. They were recorded during three farms visits (approximately 60 and a further 120 days apart) on 35 farms in Austria and Germany with cubicle, deep litter and tie stall systems. Seven measures occurred too infrequently (<1/h and 1% respectively) to allow reliable recording within a limited observation time. IOR was generally acceptable to excellent (Spearman's r=0.7-1.0), except for 'collision during lying down' with a PABAK of 0.2 (n=15, observed on farm). However, after improvement of the definition IOR was good (0.78, n=65, observed from videos). Only three measures were acceptably repeatable over time, 'duration of lying down' (Kendall's W=0.78 for a minimum of 6 recorded occurrences), 'percentage of collisions during lying down' (W=0.95) and 'percentage of cows lying partly or completely outside lying area' (W=0.87). These measures are evaluated as suitable animal based welfare measures regarding resting behaviour in the framework of an on-farm welfare assessment protocol. They can be easily and reliably recorded within 2 h during a farm visit require only a short training period and show sufficient consistency of results over time. They, moreover, allow distinction between different housing systems. However their sensitivity with regard to differences between individual farms and within farms over time needs further investigation.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 126
Issue 1/2
Pages 19-26
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Farm Animal Behaviour and Husbandry, University of Kassel, Nordbahnhofstrasse 1a, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal housing
  4. Austria
  5. Automation
  6. Cattle
  7. Dairy animals
  8. Developed countries
  9. Education
  10. Europe
  11. Feasibility
  12. Germany
  13. Health
  14. Illnesses
  15. Improvement
  16. Lameness
  17. Lesions
  18. Mammals
  19. OECD countries
  20. Pain
  21. Parasites
  22. peer-reviewed
  23. training
  24. video recordings
  1. peer-reviewed