Lying behavior and activity during the transition period of clinically healthy grazing dairy cows.


School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. Electronic address: [Email]


Lying behavior and activity may provide useful information for the prediction of an imminent calving and the health of transition dairy cows; however, it is important first to understand what constitutes typical lying behavior and activity because this has not been defined for grazing dairy cows during the transition period. Our objective was to describe changes in lying behavior and activity in grazing dairy cows during the transition period using varying phenotypes typical of commercial dairy herds under grazing systems. Behavior data from IceTag or IceQube (IceRobotics, Edinburgh, Scotland) triaxial accelerometers were collected for 310 cow parities from multiparous, mixed-age (mean ± standard deviation; 4.5 ± 1.65 yr), and mixed-breed [Holstein-Friesian (HF), n = 216; and HF × Jersey, n = 94] grazing dairy cows from 4 parent experiments. The IceTags or IceQubes captured lying and activity data during the transition period (-21 to 34 d relative to calving) to allow the calculation of daily lying time (h/d), daily lying bouts (LB; no./d), mean LB duration (min/bout), and the number of steps taken (steps/d). Lying behavior and activity were analyzed using a repeated measures ANOVA during 3 periods: PRE (-21 to -3 d), POST (3 to 21 d), and the day of calving (d 0). Lying time was lower on d 0 (7.25 h/d) compared with PRE and POST lying times (10.3 and 8.58 h/d, respectively), with more frequent LB on d 0 (12.9 no./d) compared with the PRE and POST daily LB (8.15 vs. 7.74 no./d). Cows took more steps POST (4,424 steps/d) compared with d 0 and PRE (4,105 and 2,289 steps/d, respectively). Regression analysis determined that daily lying time decreased substantially from -3 to 0 d (slope = -1.03 ± 0.07 h/d) and from -2 and -1 d for daily LB (slope = 5.09 ± 0.54 no./d), which may be due to the calving event itself but also reflect restlessness. Daily lying time, daily LB, LB duration, and number of steps taken were substantially altered at the time of the calving event in grazing dairy cows. Cows were more active, spent less time lying, and took more steps postcalving compared with precalving, and it appears that this behavior may largely be due to activity associated with twice daily milking. Mean lying behavior and activity measures were more highly variable across individuals than across groups. Information available via activity monitors may contribute to the improvement of individual management of transition dairy cows, and this research provides a benchmark for typical changes in behavior during the transition period in grazing systems.


activity monitor,behavior,grazing cow,pasture,