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The effect of lying motivation on cow behaviour

By Marianna Norring, Anna Valros

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Cows in dairy barns spend time standing while waiting for milking, accessing feed and entering the resting area. It has been suggested that high yielding cows may represent a trade off situation regarding eating and lying particularly in systems where there is a long waiting period before milking. We tested the effect on lying motivation of preventing cows of different production levels from lying down. The study included 14 primiparous cows and 14 multiparous cows in tiestalls at their 8th week of lactation. Cows were milked at approximately 06:00 and 18:00 h and milk yield was recorded. The behaviour of the cows was observed over 2 days when the cows were prevented from lying, either from 10:00 to 14:00 or from 14:00 to 18:00 h and during 2 preceding baseline days. Lying, eating, ruminating and lying with neck muscles relaxed (used as a behavioural indicator for sleep) were observed for 4 h before and 4 h after milking. The percentage time allocated to different behaviours per period was analysed using mixed models. In addition, stereotypic leaning behaviour was observed during the deprivation period. We established that the cows lay more after deprivation compared with during the baseline period for that time of day (21% vs. 34% before milking and 49% vs. 55% after milking). The cows spent less time eating after forced standing (23% vs. 21%). Cows used more time lying inactively without ruminating and lying with neck relaxed post treatment (11% vs. 19%). In addition, milk yield and lying time were correlated during the period after forced standing, indicating greater motivation in high yielding cows to rest. In total, 19 of 28 cows housed in tie stalls exhibited leaning behaviour. The duration of leaning was associated with the duration of standing. In conclusion, a 4-h standing period appeared sufficient to increase the motivation for lying and sleeping. Milk yield correlated with shorter lying duration when the cows were motivated to rest. The motivational background of the leaning behaviour in cows requires further investigation.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Cattle
  3. Lying
  4. Milk and dairy products
  5. motivation