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Lying laterality and the effect of IceTag data loggers on lying behaviour of dairy cows

By Jenny Gibbons, Catalina Medrano-Galarza, Anne Marie de Passillé, Jeffrey Rushen

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Lying behaviour is a useful indicator of cow comfort, but can be time consuming to measure. Data loggers are commonly used to automatically record behavioural activity but may influence the animal's behaviour. We investigated the effect of a new model of the IceTag data logger (IceTag Sensor, IceRobotics© Ltd, Edinburgh, UK) on lying behaviour of forty dairy cows. Smaller Hobo® Pendant G data loggers (Onset Computer Corporation, Pocasset, MA) were attached to the hindlegs of all cows balanced for left and right and measured total duration of lying time, frequency and mean duration of lying bouts and the percent of time lying down on each side. Sixteen cows were semi-randomly split into two groups depending on the position of the IceTags on the inside of the leg (medial) or the outside (lateral). Each cow experienced four treatments in a Latin square design: no IceTag data logger attached as a control (C); one IceTag data logger on the left hind leg (L), one IceTag data logger on the right hind leg (R), and a IceTag data logger on both hind legs (B). Each treatment lasted for 6 days. As part of a separate study, lying laterality data from 24 cows with an IceTag data logger attached to the lateral part of each hindleg was used. On average, cows (n=39) spent 47.5% of their time lying on the right side during a 24-h period. However, there was a large variation of time spent lying on the right side ranging from 25.1% to 65.7%. There was no significant effect of IceTag location (medial or lateral) or treatment (C, L, R, B) on total lying time, frequency of lying time, duration of lying bouts or percentage of time lying on each side. In summary, IceTags did not affect lying behaviour in dairy cows, allowing them to be reliably used in research as a high tech tool to measure activity. Overall as a group, cows show no preference for lying on one particular side, but individual cows do show a distinct preference.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 136
Issue 2
Pages 104-107
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.12.005
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Cattle
  4. data
  5. Laterality
  6. Lying