Winter represents an important time for dairy herds in the southern South Island of New Zealand. In an attempt to address poor performance in forage crop-based wintering systems, farmers are increasingly using off-paddock methods of wintering, such as housing their cows in barns. The aims of this study were to monitor the lying behaviour of cows wintered in a loose-housed barn with woodchip bedding during three separate seven day periods to determine (i) if recommended lying times were being met, and (ii) if bedding moisture content could be used as a predictor of lying time. Twenty-one non-lactating dairy cows were selected, based on age, body condition score and stage of pregnancy, from a housed herd of 90 mixed-age cows. Lying and standing movements were recorded at thirty second intervals using an electronic movement data logger attached to the ankle of each cow. Monitoring in Period 1 commenced four days after the cows entered the barn for wintering in early June; Period 2 occurred in early July, just prior to the removal and replacement of bedding material, and Period 3 occurred in mid-July when cows were again on fresh bedding material. Average daily lying times were two hours longer during Periods 1 and 3, when barn material was fresh (10.7 and 10.5 h/day, respectively), than when soiled during Period 2 (8.4 h/day). The difference in lying behaviour was due to a difference in the number of lying bouts: cows had fewer lying bouts during Period 2 (6.1 per day) than Periods 1 & 3 (7.4 and 7.9 per day, respectively). The average moisture content of the bedding was 60.7, 68.4 and 64 .3 % for Periods 1, 2 and 3, respectively. Bedding moisture content per se did not appear to be a good predictor of lying time, suggesting other factors such as bedding temperature and cleanliness and stage of pregnancy were influencing lying behaviour. These results are discussed in relation to bedding surface management and the welfare of housed dairy cows.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 75, Dunedin, 24-28, 2015
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