Reyes, F. S., Gimenez, A. R., Anderson, K. M. et al. 2022. Impact of stationary brush quantity on brush use in group-housed dairy heifers. Animals 12(8), 972.

Our objectives were to evaluate the effect of stationary brush quantity on brush use and competition in weaned dairy heifers naïve to brushes. Sixty-three Holstein heifers (95 ± 5.7 days old) were housed in groups of eight (with the exception of 1 group of 7) with two or four stationary brushes (n = 4 groups/treatment). Brush-directed behaviors of grooming, oral manipulation, and displacements were recorded continuously for all heifers 0–6, 18–24, 120–126 and 138–144 h after brush exposure. Linear mixed models were used to evaluate the effects of brush quantity and exposure duration. Total brush use and competition were not affected by brush quantity, but heifers with access to more brushes used them for longer bouts, suggesting greater opportunity for uninterrupted use. Total brush use was greater in the first and final 6 h observation periods, which was driven by the greatest duration of oral manipulation and grooming in those respective periods. The continued use of brushes by all heifers in the final period indicates the importance of providing appropriate outlets for these natural behaviors to promote animal welfare. The effect of brush quantity on bout characteristics suggests that brush use was less restricted with four compared to two brushes per eight heifers.

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