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The Ability of Cattle to Distinguish between, and their Preference for, Floors with Different Levels of Friction, and their Avoidance of Floors Contaminated with Excreta

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Abstract:

The ability of dairy cows to discriminate between floors with a smooth epoxy resin surface or with surface-applied bauxite aggregates of mean diameters 0.5 mm, 1.2 mm or 2.5 mm (having coefficients of static friction of 0.35, 0.42, 0.49 and 0.74, respectively) was recorded when they were offered the opportunity to walk down paired floor surfaces to receive a food reward. Following training, one half of the cows were rewarded when they selected the floor with the greater friction and the other half were rewarded when they selected the floor with the least friction. The cows were able to distinguish between the different floor surfaces — even between surfaces with 0.5 mm and 1.2 mm aggregates, which humans found difficult to distinguish. Eight similar cows were then offered a choice of walking down passageways of paired floors with an equal reward at the end of each passageway. There were no consistent preferences for floor type, and when the reward was offered only on the side least favoured by each cow in the initial test, the random pattern of selection was still evident. A final choice test offered the cows the opportunity to traverse passageways of either wet concrete or concrete covered with excreta. All cows avoided the passageway with excreta completely, even when the reward was increased in this passageway and removed from the wet concrete passageway. This avoidance was attributed to the cows' lack of contact with slurry, as they were at pasture for most of the day, in contrast to the cows used in previous work. which were housed in buildings with passageways covered in excreta and showed little avoidance behaviour of such passageways.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; CATTLE; EXCRETA; FLOOR; FRICTION; SLURRY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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