Effect of alternative models for increasing stocking density on the short-term behavior and hygiene of Holstein dairy cows

P D Krawczel, C S Mooney, H M Dann, M P Carter, R E Butzler, C S Ballard, R J Grant
Journal of Dairy Science 2012, 95 (5): 2467-75
The primary objective of this study was to evaluate short-term responses in lying behavior and hygiene of Holstein dairy cows housed at a stocking density of 100 (1 cow per stall and headlock) or 142% imposed by 1) the denial of access to freestalls and headlocks, 2) the denial of access to freestalls, headlocks, and 26.6 m(2) of alley space, or 3) the addition of a rotating group of 14 cows to the resident group of 34 cows. The secondary objective was to determine the bioequivalence of the 3 methods of experimentally increasing stocking density. Cows (n=136) were assigned to 1 of 4 pens in a 4-row freestall barn and treatments were allocated using a 4×4 Latin square with 14-d periods. Lying time (h/d) and number of bouts/d for 12 focal cows per pen were determined using dataloggers recording at 1-min intervals during the final 5 d of each period. Dry matter intake (DMI) was established from the pen mean over the final 4 d of each period. Feeding and rumination activities on focal cows were determined by direct observation at 10-min intervals for 24h on d 11. Hygiene of focal cows was assessed from the difference in the scores after the legs and udder were cleaned on d 2 of each period and those on d 14. Lying time was greater for 100% stocking density (13.0 h/d) than the 142% stocking density treatments (11.8 h/d), which did not differ. Lying bouts (12.3/d) and bout duration (64.8 min/bout) did not differ among treatments. Short-term responses in DMI (24.6 kg/d) did not differ in response to the treatments. The 3 stocking density treatments decreased, or tended to decrease, the time spent feeding compared with 100% (4.4 versus 4.2 h/d). The stocking density treatments decreased the percentage of rumination occurring within a stall (92.3 versus 85.3%). A treatment effect on udder and leg hygiene scores was not evident on d 14 of each period or in the change from d 2 to 14 of each period. With the exception of rumination time (h/d), the 3 methods for experimentally imposing stocking density were bioequivalent for responses in behaviors, DMI, and hygiene. Future stocking density experiments in 4-row barns should simply deny resting and feeding space to simulate overcrowded housing conditions for lactating dairy cows because it is bioequivalent to more complicated, and potentially confounding, research models.

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