Short communication: effect of stocking density on indices of cow comfort

P D Krawczel, C T Hill, H M Dann, R J Grant
Journal of Dairy Science 2008, 91 (5): 1903-7
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of increasing stocking density on indices of cow comfort measured over a 24-h period, during peak lying time (0000 to 0400 h), and 1 h after the afternoon milking. Holstein cows (n = 136) were assigned to 1 of 4 pens, and stocking densities of 100, 113, 131, and 142% were applied in a 4 x 4 Latin square. Video data were recorded continuously for 2 d after 5 d of acclimation to stocking density and analyzed with 10-min scan samples for the percentage of cows lying in a stall, standing in a stall, standing in the alley, and eating at the manger. Percentage of cows standing idly in the alley increased as stocking density increased above 113% (10.9, 12.0, 14.4, and 16.5% for 100, 113, 131, and 142% stocking density, respectively). Cow comfort index (CCI; cows lying down/cows contacting stalls) and stall standing index (SSI; cows standing in stall/cows contacting stalls) differed little as stocking density increased, but stall use index (SUI; cows lying in stall/cows in pen not eating) decreased beyond 113% stocking density (70.1, 70.2, 68.6, and 66.3 for 100, 113, 131, and 142% stocking density, respectively). During peak lying time, SUI decreased with increasing (80.3, 79.5, 74.8, and 69.6 for 100, 113, 131, and 142% stocking density, respectively) stocking density above 113%, whereas CCI and SSI showed little response. None of the indices varied by stocking density when they were assessed at 1 h after milking. These results suggest that more than 1 index of cow comfort may be needed at higher stocking densities to assess both stall usage and cows standing idly in an alley. At higher stocking densities, SUI was reduced, because it reflected not only stall usage but the number of cows standing idly in an alley and not actively feeding and unable to access a stall. The CCI and SSI appear to assess actual stall usage (% cows lying or standing) across the range of stocking densities evaluated in this study.

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