Rice, C., Eberhart, N., Krawczel, P. 2017. Prepartum lying behavior of Holstein dairy cows housed on pasture through parturition. Animals 7(4), 32.
Utilizing pasture-based systems may increase cow comfort during late gestation and calving as it lacks the constraints of confinement housing. The objective of this study was to quantify lying behavior and activity of Holstein dairy cows housed on pasture during the 6 d before calving. Sixteen Holstein dairy cows were moved to pasture 3 weeks before their projected calving date. Data loggers were attached 14 d prior to projected calving date. Behavior was evaluated 6 d before calving for all cows (n = 16) and 6 h prior to calving for a subset of cows (n= 6) with known calving times. Data loggers recorded at 1-min intervals to determine lying time (h/d and %/h), lying bouts (n/d and n/h), lying bout duration (min/bout), and steps (n/d and n/h). A repeated measures analysis of variance with contrasts was performed to determine if lying behaviors and activity differed between baseline and day or hour of interest. Lying time was greater 6 d prior to calving compared to the day of and before calving. Cows had longer lying bouts 6 d prior to calving compared to day of calving. Cows spent less time lying in the hour before calving compared to 6 h prior to parturition. The lack of change in behavior and activity during the 7 d prior to calving may indicate that pasture provided an adequate environment for cows during the prepartum period but did not impact cow welfare in the hours leading up to calving.