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‘Looking up’ behavior in the holding area of the milking parlor: its relationship with step-kick, flight responses and productivity of commercial dairy cows

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Commercial dairy cows milked in a parlor system are packed close together in the holding area before milking. The present study examined the relationships of ‘looking up’ behavior with some other behaviors and the productivity of 1116–1153 cows from five farms. The individual identities of the cows looking up in the holding area were recorded at 5 min intervals during six intermittent afternoon milking sessions. Entrance into the milking parlor and the numbers of steps and kicks by cows while the milking person was attaching the milking cups, were recorded in six milking sessions. Flight responses in the pasture after milking were recorded over four days intermittently. The frequency of ‘looking up’ behavior weakly, but significantly correlated with flight starting distance (r = 0.10, P < 0.05), while the correlation with the number of step-kicks during milking was not significant. As for productivity, lactation number (r = −0.18, P < 0.001), milk yield (r = −0.15, P < 0.001) and fat content (r = −0.15, P < 0.001) were negatively correlated with the frequency of ‘looking up’ behavior. Age of cows was correlated with the frequency of ‘looking up’ behavior as well as lactation number (r = −0.21, P < 0.001). Entrance order was positively correlated with the frequency of ‘looking up’ behavior (r = 0.15, P < 0.001). The ‘looking up’ behavior was observed more frequently in cows in their third or less lactation compared with cows which were in their fourth or greater lactation (P < 0.05). The lactation number of cows was correlated with their milk yield (r = 0.36, P < 0.001) and flight starting distance (r = −0.21, P < 0.001). In conclusion, ‘looking up’ behavior shown by cows in the holding area before milking might be an indicator of low motivation for milking, mainly because of fear of humans, and an aversion to milking caused by insufficient experience in being milked.
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Keywords: dairy cattle; herding behavior; milking; productivity; welfare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Sagamihara-shi, Japan and 2: NSW Agriculture, Agricultural Research Centre, Trangie, New South Wales, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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