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J Dairy Sci. 2012 May;95(5):2467-75. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4686.

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

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  • 1William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY 12921, USA. pkrawcze@utk.edu


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.

Copyright © 2012 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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