A comparison of the estrous behavior of Holstein-Friesian cows when cubicle-housed and at pasture

Maeve A. Palmer*, Gabriela Olmos, Laura A. Boyle, John F. Mee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study compared estrous behavior of dairy cows kept in cubicle housing and fed a total mixed ration diet (HOUSED treatment) with that of cows kept at pasture with concentrate supplementation (PASTURE treatment). Behavior was compared both in the 48 h around standing estrus and during the standing estrus period. The 23 spring-calving Holstein-Friesians in each treatment were observed directly three times per day for nine weeks. The occurrence of nine selected behaviors associated with estrus was recorded during 20 min observation sessions. Twelve standing estrus events from each treatment were selected for analysis of the frequency of these nine behaviours over the 48 h around standing estrus. Milk progesterone profiles were used to confirm the dates of standing estrus events. Attempting to mount other cows, sniffing the anogenital region of other cows, resting the chin on other cows, receiving chin rests and head-to-head butts all showed significant changes in frequency in the 48 h around standing estrus in both treatments, reaching a peak during standing estrus (P ≤ 0.05). Mounting other cows increased significantly in the PASTURE treatment around standing estrus (P <0.001), but not in the HOUSED treatment. The frequency of ano-genital sniffs received by the animals in the PASTURE treatment also increased significantly around standing estrus (P <0.01) but not in the HOUSED treatment. When the animals were in standing estrus there was a significantly higher frequency of standing to be mounted in PASTURE than in HOUSED cows (median (q1, q3) PASTURE = 2.5 (1.0, 3.0), HOUSED = 0.0 (0.0, 1.0)) (P <0.01), but no difference in the frequency of the other eight sexual behaviors recorded. HOUSED cows did not exhibit the same increase in mounting during the standing estrus period as PASTURE cows and received fewer mounts in observation sessions during standing estrus. These results have implications for the use of estrus detection systems that rely solely on mounting behavior in cubicle-housed dairy cows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalTheriogenology
Volume77
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2012

Keywords

  • Dairy cows
  • Estrous behavior
  • Estrus detection
  • Housing
  • Visual observation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Equine
  • Food Animals
  • Small Animals

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