Factors that influence dairy cow preference to be indoors or at pasture

Motupalli, P.R. (2014) Factors that influence dairy cow preference to be indoors or at pasture. Doctoral thesis, Harper Adams University.

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Abstract

Many factors influence dairy cow preference to be at pasture. The studies reported here investigated whether herbage mass and previous experience affected preference. The first study offered a high (3000 ± 200 kg DM) vs. low (1800 ± 200 kg DM) mass at a near (38 m) vs. far (254 m) distance to 16 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. Masses were offered at two distances to determine motivation. A continuously housed control group (n =16) was also compared to cows with free access to pasture. Video recordings and scan-sampling with five-minute intervals revealed that mass did not affect preference (P > 0.05), but the proportion of time cows spent at pasture during the day was more at the near distance (73.7% vs. 28.8%, P < 0.05). Night-time pasture use was not affected by distance. Continuously housed cows produced 6.7 kg less milk/day than free-access cows (P < 0.05). To determine the effect of previous experience, two groups of 12 Holstein-Friesian dairy heifers were reared with or without exposure to pasture and tested for their preference for pasture at 16 months in 2012. In 2013, when lactating, a similar study was conducted with the same treatment groups in addition to a group that was reared without exposure in their first grazing season, but with exposure in their second grazing season. Indoor-reared heifers spent more time indoors (82.6 vs. 55.6%, P < 0.05), and investigating grass (5.07% vs. 2.39%, P < 0.05) than heifers with experience of pasture. As the measurement period progressed, indoor-reared heifers spent more time at pasture (P < 0.05). Similar results were reported for lactating cows, but no effect of time was recorded for cows without exposure to pasture (P > 0.05). The original findings of this thesis show that herbage mass does not affect high yielding dairy cow preference for pasture, but pasture access can have a beneficial effect on production. Dairy cattle without experience of pasture show a decreased preference for it, but depending on age of exposure this changes over time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions: Animal Production, Welfare and Veterinary Sciences
Depositing User: Ms Kath Osborn
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2018 14:51
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2018 14:51
URI: http://hau.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/17356

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