Article Text

Effect of different housing conditions on behaviour and foot lesions in Friesian heifers
  1. FC Leonard,
  2. J O'Connell and
  3. K O'Farrell
  1. Moorepark Research and Development Division, Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland.

Abstract

Spring-calving Friesian heifers were randomly allocated either to Dutch Comfort cubicles (2130 x 1160 mm) bedded with rubber mats or to modified Newton Rigg cubicles (2060 x 1090 mm) without bedding. Their behavioural activities, including lying down and standing, were monitored every 30 minutes for two days and two nights each week from November to March, and all four feet of each animal were examined at housing, at calving and monthly thereafter. During January, February and March the 22 heifers in the Dutch Comfort cubicles lay down significantly longer and spent significantly less time standing half-in the cubicles than the 21 heifers in the Newton Rigg cubicles (P < 0.01). Claw health deteriorated in all the animals after housing, but less in the heifers in the Dutch Comfort cubicles, at both one and two months after calving (P < 0.05). There were moderate correlations between the lying behaviour and the total foot lesions and the lesions in the sole ulcer area of the heifers in the Dutch Comfort cubicles but none for the heifers in the Newton Rigg cubicles, possibly because lameness is a multifactorial condition and other factors may have masked the effect of lying down on foot lesions in this group. The better conditions provided by the Dutch Comfort cubicles were associated with better claw health and this effect was partially mediated through the increased time spent lying down by the heifers in these cubicles.

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