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Conference paper, 2004

Behavior of high- and low-ranked dairy cows after redirection in selection gates in an automatic milking system

Hermans, Gerdi; Wiktorsson, Hans; Melin, Martin; Pettersson, Gunnar
Melin, Martin (ed.)


Cow traffic in automatic milking systems can be controlled with gates at the entrances to feeding areas, where cows are either let through (gate opens) or redirected (gate remains closed) to the milking unit (MU). The motivation and possibility for a cow to enter the MU after a redirection can be measured as redirection time, which is the elapsed time from a redirection in a gate until the next registration in the MU. Melin and Wiktorsson (unpublished) observed a considerable individual variation in redirection time; individual averages ranged from 22 to 172 minutes. In order to increase the understanding for this individual variation in redirection time, a behavior study was performed at the University Cattle Research Center Kungsängen in Uppsala, Sweden. Two groups of 12 cows each (high-ranked and low-ranked) in a controlled cow traffic system were used as focal cows in a herd of 46 cows. After a redirection in gates, the behaviour and the location of the focal cows were continuously observed until entrance in the MU or during a maximum observation time of one hour. This was repeated five times for each focal cow, generating 120 observations in total. The dominance order was established from registrations in roughage stations. Dominant cows spent on average 13 minutes in the waiting area during the observation period, to be compared to 19 minutes for subdominant cows. In 22% of all observations the cow entered the cubicles during the one-hour observation period, and when they did, they on average spent 41 minutes of totally 60 in the cubicles. No individual cow entered the cubicles in all five observation sessions, and the maximum individual average of time spent in cubicles was 25 minutes (Table 1). Individual differences were observed; 9 of the totally 24 cows never entered the cubicles, and 9 other cows were responsible for 80% of all cubicle observations. Table 1. LS-means (minutes) of time spent in different barn areas within 1 hour after a redirection in gates for high-ranked and low-ranked cows, respectively (N=116). The range of individual means (minimum-maximum) is given within parenthesis Barn Area High-ranked cows Low-ranked cows Waiting area in front of MU 12a (1-25) 20b (11-34) Resting area with cubicles 19 (0-25) 16 (0-25) Passage area in front of gates 8 (2-18) 6 (2-14) ab Significant difference between LS-means within rows A long time since last feeding decreased the time spent in the resting area. The number of cows in the waiting area at the time-point of redirection was in positive relationship to the time until entrance in MU. It was concluded that there exist individual differences as well as differences due to dominance order in the behaviour after a redirection in gates. These behavioural differences could to a part explain the individual variation in redirection time observed by Melin and Wiktorsson (unpublished)

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Publisher: Meijering, A., Hogeveen, H. and deKoning, C.J.A.M


Automatic Milking-a better understanding