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Rank correlated use of soft flooring by dairy cattle

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The present study covers rank correlated use of soft flooring during partial replacement (45% of the total floor space) of concrete slatted floor by rubber covering. For this purpose, the rank position of 19 cows within a 50 Brown Swiss dairy cattle herd was evaluated by calculating the individual dominance index. A clear rank affiliation could be found for 16 cows (eight cows with a rank index 0.67 – 1.0 (ie high ranking) and eight cows with a rank index 0.0 – 0.25 (ie low ranking). Using focal sampling, the 16 cows were observed with time-lapse video recording before and after floor replacement (8.5 hours per day for 10 days with each floor kind). After replacing 45% of the concrete floor surface with soft flooring in a test area far from the milking parlour, high ranking cows used this area significantly longer ie 105.5 ± 36.2 min more than before compared with lower ranking herd members, who did so 17.6 ± 24.6 min less. Before replacement, low ranking cows spent significantly more time on the concrete slatted floor of the test area (147.6 ± 13.2 min) than high ranking cows (80.9 ± 17.3 min). The results of the observation demonstrate that the extent of use of soft rubber flooring correlates to rank-order and illustrates the importance of barn designs in terms of meeting their specific needs in spite of an existing rank order.
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Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; CONCRETE FLOOR; COW COMFORT; DAIRY CATTLE; SOCIAL RANK; SOFT FLOORING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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