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Behavioural reactions before and during vaginal examination in dairy cows

By Madlen Pilz, Carola Fischer-Tenhagen, Gerhard Thiele, Harm Tinge, Fabian Lotz, Wolfgang Heuwieser

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Vaginal examinations are routine procedures on dairy farms to diagnose pregnancy or puerperal diseases. Cows express their discomfort in certain situations with discrete behavioural reactions. These reactions can be described in their occurrence and extent. Although there is evidence that human contact is potentially stressful for cows, the impact of vaginal examinations on animal welfare has not been evaluated. Therefore, we hypothesized that (1) cows show discomfort before and during vaginal examination with different behavioural reactions, (2) these reactions can be semi-quantitatively scored and (3) the examination with a Metricheck device is less invasive than an examination with the gloved hand. In experiment 1, the behaviour of 10 cows during vaginal examination was videotaped and analysed. In total, 15 different behavioural reactions were identified. Based on these observations, a numerical rating system was created. The avoidance reactivity score (ARS) includes evasive reactions, which are scored on a 4-point scale, and signals of discomfort, scored with 1 point each. In Experiment 2, evasive reactions of cows were videotaped and scored by two observers and three times by the examiner. The inter- and intra-repeatability was 0.70 and 0.87, respectively. In experiment 3, vaginal examinations of 30 cows were videotaped and scored with the ARS by four observers and three times by one observer. The inter- and intra-observer repeatability during examination was 0.44 and 0.81, respectively. In experiment 4, 435 vaginal examinations were conducted either with the gloved hand (group GH) or the Metricheck device (group MD). Behaviour before and during examination was scored. The median ARS increased from 1 before (IQR: 1–2) to 3 during examination (IQR: 2–4) and cows in the group MD showed less avoidance reactions compared to cows in the group GH (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 138
Issue 1
Pages 18-27
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.01.011
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Avoidance
  3. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  4. Cattle