Abstract

As housing is adopted to minimise the environmental impacts of farming activities in New Zealand, it becomes important to investigate the impact of this on the body condition of cows as a predictor of animal welfare. The P21 project undertaken at Massey University’s Dairy 4 recorded the body condition score (BCS) and live weight (LW) of cows either under duration-controlled grazing during sensitive periods (‘housed’) or standard feed-pad (‘standard’) system. A total of 10,350 BCS records and 10,950 LW records were available from 978 cows over three dairy seasons (2013-14 to 2015-16). Random regression curves for daily BCS and LW were modelled using a 5th order Legendre polynomial. Data were analysed with a linear model, which included the effects of system, season, the system by season interaction and proportion of breeds (Jersey and Friesian), and cow age fitted as co-variants. The BCS was greater in 2014-15 than in either 2013-14 or 2015-16, (4.48 vs 4.33 and 4.28, respectively). The BCS of the housed and standard cows were significantly different (P <0.01) in 2013-14 and 2015-16. Housed cows were heavier than standard cows in both 2013-14 and 2014-15. These results indicate that housing of cows could improve on their BCS and LW.

NW Sneddon, N Lopez-Villalobos, and DJ Donaghy

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 72-76, 2017
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