Conference proceedings article
Mid-term effects of different handling treatments on heart rate and heart rate variability of dairy cows

Publication Details
Ivemeyer, S.; Boll, M.; Knierim, U.
Dwyer,Cathy; Haskell, Marie; Sandilands, Victoria
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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Proceedings of the 50th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology


While there is evidence that positive handling may improve health and performance, not

much is known about the direct and mid-term effects (about one hour later) of the quality of

short-term handling on the cows, e.g. in terms of cardiac responses. We therefore exposed six

multiparous cows after morning milking to four standardized handling procedures, one per day

in random order: positive (POS): TTouch© (PT) and stroking (PS) for each 10 min; negative

(NEG): tail lifting (4 times within 10 min, NT) and individual isolation (data from minute 5-10

of isolation, NI), in order to assess their effects on heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability

(HRV) during the tests and during the following lying bouts (52±19 min after treatment start).

To compare the post-treatment response of POS and NEG with a relaxed, but neutral situation,

a lying reference recording from an earlier day before the start of the treatments at the same

time of day was used (NEUTRAL). HR and HRV data after POS and NEG were subtracted from

NEUTRAL lying data. HR and HRV data were recorded with equipment from Polar Electro™

and analyzed with Kubios 2.2 software. Analyzed sequences were 5 min each. If possible, three

successive 5-min sequences were averaged for the lying recordings. General mixed models with

repeated measures within cows and treatments as fixed factor (either separately or summarized

to POS and NEG) were calculated for HR and HRV (standard deviation of inter-beat intervals

(SDNN), root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD), ratio low to high frequency band

powers (LF/HF)) as dependent variables. The four different handling treatments had significant

effects on HR (means: PT: 66.7, PS: 68.6, NT: 71.8, NI: 74.6 bpm; P=0.002) and HRV (SDNN

means: PT: 15.2, PS: 22.2, NI: 47.8, NT: 60.2 ms; P<0.001; LF/HF means: PT: 2.4, PS: 8.2, NI:

11.1, NT: 17.5, P=0.013; RMSSD, n.s.) during treatment. The post-treatment analyses resulted

in HR being significantly increased after NEG (0.44 bpm) and decreased after POS (-1.35

bpm; P=0.006) compared to NEUTRAL, with RMSSD being lower after NEG (-0.30 ms) and

higher after POS (1.41 ms. P=0.009; for SDNN and LF/HF, n.s.). Despite the limited sample

size and the effects not being high and not consistent for all variables, results suggest that (1)

short-term handling has slight, but longer lasting effects for at least about one hour (2) POS

treatments induce a higher parasympathetic activity compared to negative and even neutral

situations. Thus, single positive events may contribute to longer lasting enhanced well-being.

Last updated on 2019-25-07 at 16:22