Associations of housing, management, milking activity, and standing and lying behavior of dairy cows milked in automatic systems

J A Deming, R Bergeron, K E Leslie, T J DeVries
Journal of Dairy Science 2013, 96 (1): 344-51
The objective of this cross-sectional study was to describe the housing, feeding management, and characteristics (parity and stage of lactation) of cows on commercial automatic milking system (AMS) dairies and their associations with the standing and lying behavior patterns and milking activity (frequency and yield) of lactating dairy cows. Thirteen AMS herds were enrolled in the study, with an average herd size of 71±30 (mean ± SD; range: 34 to 131) lactating cows. All of the herds used freestall barns, each set up for free cow traffic to the AMS. On-farm measurements were taken to determine stocking density at the freestalls (0.9±0.1 cows/stall; mean ± SD), feed bunk (0.66±0.17 m of feed bunk space/cow; mean ± SD), and AMS units (55±11 cows/AMS; mean ± SD). A random sample of 30 cows/herd was selected to monitor standing and lying behavior for 4d using electronic data loggers. Times of feed delivery and feed push-up were recorded daily by the herd managers. Milking times, frequency, and yield were automatically recorded by the AMS units. Data were analyzed in a multivariable mixed regression model to determine which herd-level (housing and feeding management) and cow-level (parity, DIM, and milk yield) factors were associated with behavior and milking activity measures. Lying bout lengths were found to be negatively associated with milk yield and tended to be positively associated with more space at the feed bunk. Increased lying duration was associated with cows of lower milk production, increased space at the feed bunk, and increased frequency of feed push-up. Longer postmilking standing durations were associated with cows of higher parity. An association existed between cows milking less frequently when they were further in lactation, were of higher parity, and as stocking density at the AMS (cows/AMS) increased. Milk yield was positively associated with increased space at the feed bunk and higher parity and negatively associated with DIM. From this study, it can be concluded that increased milking frequency may be achieved in AMS herds by reducing stocking density at the AMS unit. Further, in AMS systems, greater milk yield and lying duration may be achieved by ensuring that cows have ample feed bunk space and have their feed readily available to them in the bunk.

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