The present study explores the welfare aspects of involuntary milking in dairy herds with an automatic milking system (AMS) as it focuses on whether fetching of cows for milking may be related to fear/discomfort of the automatic milking unit (AMU) or the milking itself and further, may strain the human-animal relationship. Behavioural data on cow reluctance when entering the AMU, stepping and kicking behaviour during milking and avoidance of humans was collected at 6 two-day visits to 8 Danish commercial AMS herds during a year. The data set for the analysis included one observation per cow of reluctance when entering the AMU and behaviour during milking of a total of 869 cows; 255 cows fetched for milking and 614 non-fetched cows. For 82 of the cows fetched for milking and for 370 of the non-fetched cows the data further included one observation per cow of avoidance towards an approaching unfamiliar human in a test situation. Multivariate analyses by conditional hierarchical log-linear models showed that fetchings were more frequent the first 14 days of lactation (P<0.001). The multivariate analysis showed no associations between fetching and reluctance at entering the AMU, nor an association to stepping and kicking during milking. However, compared to non-fetched cows, fetched cows were more frequently avoiding the test person in the human approach test (P<0.001). It is concluded that fetching may strain the human-animal relationship.
|Publication Title||Livestock Science|
|Author Address||Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition, Research Centre Foulum, PO Box 50, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark. Tine.Rousing@agrsci.dk|
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