Conference proceedings article
Behavioural response in dairy cows with and without calf-contact to calf-odour in the parlour

Publication Details
Zipp, K.; Barth, K.; Knierim, U.
Waiblinger, Susanne; Winckler, Christoph; Gutmann, Anke
Wageningen Academic Publishers
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Quality of life in designed environments? Proceedings of the 46th Congress of the Inernational Society for Applied Ethology 31 July - 4 August 2012, Vienna, Austria

Combined dairy suckling and milking systems provide some advantages, especially for the mother-reared calves, but pose milk let-down problems during machine-milking. One potential, yet up to now unsuccessful approach to improve milkability is to stimulate the cows by calf-odour. This study aimed to ascertain whether such odour stimuli are perceived and produce a differentiated response depending on cow-calf contact and odour identity. 18 cows, 5 heifers, separated from their calves after birth (‘control'), and 17 cows, 6 heifers with permanent calf contact (‘contact') were tested in their third lactation week. They were of the breeds Holstein-Friesian and German Red Pied. During six of twice daily milkings, in the milking parlour they were presented with two of altogether three stimuli (bag with hair of the own calf=Co, with hair of an alien calf=Ca, without hair=0) in two punnets on top of the other in randomised order, resulting in all possible combinations and positions of each stimulus. Duration of sniffing and licking at the punnets/duration of stimulus presentation (=response) was recorded for 3 minutes after stimulus presentation by continuous focal animal sampling from videotapes. More heifers than multiparous cows (91% vs. 51%) reacted at least once in all trials to any sample (χ²(1)=5.48, p=0.019). Additionally, in tendency more ‘contact'-cows responded (78% vs. 44%; χ²(1)=3.29, p=0.070). Within these responsive cows, no difference between ‘contact'- and ‘control'-cows in their response to Co+Ca vs. 0 (difference (Co+Ca)-0; p=0.282) or Co vs. Ca (p=0.128, Mann-Whitney-test ) was found. However, they in general responded longer to Co (median: 3.98%) than to Ca (2.06%) and to 0 (0.00%; p=0.004, Friedman's ANOVA). The relatively low response rates hint at a certain inappropriateness of stimulus presentation. However, the responsive cows indicated that they were able to perceive different odours and were most interested in odour from their own calf.

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Last updated on 2019-17-06 at 11:18