The influence of social hierarchy on the behaviour of a herd of 41 cows milked in an automated milking system (AMS) was studied under conditions of free or no access to water at pasture. In phase 1 (P1) water was available within a central collection area (CCA) in the centre of the farm from which return to pasture was via the AMS. In phase 2 (P2), water was available at pasture in addition to the CCA. The time budget for activity (grazing, standing, lying or walking) and location (paddock, CCA entrance race, exit race or waiting yard) was determined over 2x24h in each of P1 & P2. Dominance values (DV) were calculated and cows classified as high, middle or low ranking. In P1 & P2, DV was positively related to the number of milking visits to the AMS. In P1, 83.4% of all drinking occurred in the CCA compared with 14.2% in P2. Social rank had no effect on time budget in P1, however, in P2, DV influenced waiting times with lower ranking cows spending a greater proportion of time waiting before entering the AMS. The results show that social rank affects the number of visits to the AMS and yard waiting times but has little effect on the activity time budget of cows milked in a AMS.

J, Jago, A Jackson, and M Woolford

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 63, Queenstown, 120-123, 2003
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