Effects of lameness of dairy cows.


Lameness is one of the most important welfare problems in dairy cattle. Most studies on lameness have focused on wide ranging surveys to identify causal factors, but few have considered the welfare implications of this disorder. In this study, we compared the social and individual behavior of 10 lame cows and 10 nonlame cows. The 20 Holstein-Friesian cows calved in the summer and spent the autumn and winter together with another 36 nonlame cows in a Newton Rigg cubicle house building. The cubicle to cow ratio was 1:1, and wheat straw bedding was provided every day. The investigators fed the cows ad lib a silage-based diet and milked them twice a day, at which time they received adjusted amounts of concentrate. The investigators observed the 2 groups of cows a total of 32 hr to obtain information on social and individual behaviors through scan and behavior sampling. Although lame cows were less likely to start an aggressive interaction, there were no differences in times receiving aggression. No differences were found in the times licking other cows; however, the frequency of times being licked was higher in the lame cows. The lame cows spent more time lying out of the cubicles, had longer total lying times, and spent less time feeding. The behavioral differences seen show that lame cows do not cope as successfully with their environment as do nonlame cows. Also, these results provide useful information on how licking in dairy cows may play a role in alleviating discomfort of other herd members who are in pain or who are sick. Copyright © 2002, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.