Conference proceedings article
Effects of short-term pre-calving handling of dairy heifers on heifers' behaviour and udder health

Publication Details
Ivemeyer, S.; Pisani, M.; Göbel, F.; Knierim, U.
Estevez, Inma; Manteca, Xavier; Marin, Raul H.; Averós, Xavier
Wageningen Academic Publishers
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Book title:
Proceedings of the 48th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, 29 July - 2 August 2014, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Title of series:
ISAE Proceedings

the novelty of being handled during milking contributes to the peripartum stress in heifers with possibly adverse e€ffects on their well-being and health. In the present study it was investigated whether pre-calving handling-training with circular or stroking touches led to reduced agitation of heifers during the sessions and during milking, reduced heifers’ avoidance distances in the barn (AD) and improved udder health. On 3 farms, 4 training sessions (at 2 days with 1 dayin-between and 2 per day) were conducted about 11 days pre-partum, touching hind quarters (HQ), hind legs and udder (HLU) and rest (dorsum, neck, ank, belly) of 13 trained heifers. Handling focus was on HLU. Sessions lasted about 10 min (average: 9.4 min ±2.4 min) and ended in a moment, when the heifer was calmer than at training start. 14 heifers served as control. Agitation responses (categorized by pre-deƒned behaviours into ‘without aversive responses’ and ‘with aversive responses’) of 10 heifers during the 4 handling-sessions (all heifers with complete video-taped trainings) were observed from videos and data analysed with general linear mixed models with handling number as ƒfixed (time) eff€ect and farm as random eff€ect. The AD development from immediately before training to 3 to 4 days post-partum, agitation behaviour (stepping and kicking) during 2 milkings at 2 to 4 days post-partum, as well as somatic cell scores of the fiƒrst three monthly milk test recordings (average and diff€erence between fiƒrst and third month) were analysed with mixed models with treatment as fiƒxed and farm as random e€ffect. Acceptable intra- and inter-observer reliability was achieved for the behavioural recordings. In the course of the 4 training-sessions, heifers’ agitation decreased, indicated by increased endurance of touching HLU from the fiƒrst (9.3% of total touching time) to the later trainings (second: 23.2%, third: 25.1%; fourth: 13.6%; time eff€ect: P=0.004). Duration without aversive responses during touching HLU increased in the later trainings (second: 17.7%, third: 19.1%, fourth: 10.0% of HLU touching time) compared to the ƒfirst training (6.0%; time eff€ect: P=0.024). However, no signiƒcant di€erences between trained and control heifers were found regarding their behaviour aft„er parturition and udder health (P>0.05). Possibly the handling was not intensive or long-lasting enough. Hence, conducted pre-calving handling had some positive eff€ects on heifers’ immediate agitation behaviour but no ongoing eff€ects.


Last updated on 2019-25-07 at 16:38