JOURNAL ARTICLE

Associations of dairy cow behavior, barn hygiene, cow hygiene, and risk of elevated somatic cell count

T J Devries, M G Aarnoudse, H W Barkema, K E Leslie, M A G von Keyserlingk
Journal of Dairy Science 2012, 95 (10): 5730-9
22884345
Poor dairy cow hygiene has been consistently associated with elevated somatic cell count (SCC) and the risk of subclinical mastitis. The objective of this study was to determine the associations between dairy cow standing and lying behavior, barn hygiene, cow hygiene, and the risk of experiencing elevated SCC. Lactating Holstein dairy cows (n=69; 86 ± 51 DIM; parity: 2.0 ± 1.2; means ± SD), kept in 1 of 2 groups, were monitored over a 4-mo period. Each group contained 61 ± 1 (mean ± SD) cows over the study period; complete data were obtained from 37 and 32 animals within each respective group. Cows were housed in a sand-bedded, freestall barn with 2 symmetrical pens, each with a free cow traffic automatic milking system. To vary barn hygiene, in 4 consecutive 28-d periods, alley manure scrapers in each of the 2 pens were randomly assigned to frequencies of operation of 3, 6, 12, and 24 times per day. During the last 7 d of each period, cow hygiene (upper leg/flank, lower legs, and udder; scale of 1 = very clean to 4 = very dirty) and stall hygiene (number of 0.15×0.15-m squares contaminated with manure in a 1.20×1.65-m grid) were recorded. Standing and lying behavior of the cows were collected during those days using data loggers. Individual-cow SCC was recorded at the beginning and end of each 28-d period. Elevated SCC was used as an indicator of subclinical mastitis; incidence of elevated SCC was defined as having a SCC >200,000 cells/mL at the end of each 28-d period, when SCC was <100,000 cells/mL at the beginning of the period. Less frequent scraping of the barn alleys was associated with cows having poorer hygiene. Poor udder hygiene was associated with poor stall hygiene. Longer lying duration was associated with poor hygiene of the upper legs/flank and udder. Greater premilking standing duration was associated with poor udder hygiene and decreased frequency of lying bouts was associated with poor hygiene of the lower legs. Higher milk yield was associated with poor hygiene of the udder and lower legs; multiparous cows had poorer hygiene of the upper legs/flank and udder. Over the study period, 24 new cases of elevated SCC were detected. No associations existed for the risk of experiencing an elevated SCC with alley scraping frequency or cow behavior patterns. However, increased odds of occurrence of elevated SCC were noted for cows of lower milk yield as well as for multiparous cows. In summary, these results show that cow hygiene is affected by the standing and lying behavior of cows and by the cleanliness of the cow's environment. These findings emphasize the need for cows to be provided clean standing and lying environments. The results also show that frequent cleaning of barn alley floors will help improve cow hygiene.

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