JOURNAL ARTICLE

Associations of herd- and cow-level factors, cow lying behavior, and risk of elevated somatic cell count in free-stall housed lactating dairy cows

M E Alexandrea Watters, Karin M A Meijer, Herman W Barkema, Kenneth E Leslie, Marina A G von Keyserlingk, Trevor J Devries
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 2013 September 1, 111 (3): 245-55
23791124
Recent evidence suggests that the risk of intramammary infection in dairy cows is related to lying patterns. The objectives of this study were to quantify the standing and lying behavior of dairy cows milked 3×/d, determine the cow- and herd-level factors associated with these behaviors, and relate these findings to the risk of an elevated somatic cell count (SCC). Five commercial free-stall dairy herds in Eastern Ontario, milking 3×/d, were enrolled in a longitudinal study. Forty Holstein-Friesian cows/herd were randomly selected as focal animals based on days in milk (<200 d) and SCC (<100,000 cells/mL). Farms were followed for 4, 5-week periods. Individual-cow SCC was recorded at the beginning of each period and end of the final period. Elevated SCC (eSCC) was used as an indicator of subclinical mastitis. A new incident eSCC was defined as an individual cow that started the period with a SCC <100,000 cells/mL but whose next SCC exceeded 200,000 cells/mL. Lying behavior was recorded 5d after each milk sampling using data loggers. For these 5d, individual milking times and feeding times were also recorded. On d1 of each recording period 2 trained observers scored focal cows for hygiene and lameness. Throughout the course of the study, cows averaged 11.2h/d of lying time, split into 8.6 lying bouts/d that were on average 84.6 min in length. Later lactation cows had longer daily lying times that were split into fewer lying bouts of longer duration than cows earlier in lactation. Lame cows had longer daily lying times and lying bout durations than non-lame cows. Cows with greater milk yield had lower lying times than lower producing cows. Average post-milking standing time across the study herds was 103 min. Manipulation of feed (feed delivery or push-up) by the stockperson, in the hour before milking or shortly thereafter, resulted in the longest post-milking standing times. Over the study period, 48 new eSCC were detected, resulting in a mean herd incidence rate of 0.91 eSCC/cow-year at risk for all study herds. A non-linear relationship between post-milking standing time and eSCC incidence was found; compared to those cows that lie down <90 min after milking, cows that lie down for the first time >90 min after milking had a lower risk of acquiring a new eSCC. The risk of experiencing an eSCC was also increased in multiparous cows, and in those cows with a higher SCC at the beginning of the study. These results indicate that management practices that promote post-milking standing time, such as the manipulation of feed delivery around milking times, should be encouraged to reduce the risk of cows experiencing new eSCC.

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