Sutherland, M. A., Lowe, G. L., Watson, T. J. et al. 2017. Dairy goats prefer to use different flooring types to perform different behaviours. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 197, 24-31.
Flooring is an important component of indoor housing systems for livestock as it can impact animal hygiene and welfare. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the lying and elimination preferences of goats, as well as their relative udder cleanliness, when presented with four different flooring types. At 8 months of age, 32 non-lactating female Saanen cross does (45.4±6.10kg) were restricted to one of four different flooring types for 10days (2.9m2/goat), then restricted to the other three surfaces (10days per surface) using a Latin square design (n=8 replicates, 4 goats/replicate). The four flooring types included wood shavings (WS), metal mesh (MM), plastic slats (PS) and rubber matting (RM). After the restriction period, goats were given free access to all four flooring types simultaneously for 48h. Lying behaviour was recorded using accelerometers. In addition, lying location and elimination (urination and defecation) behaviour were recorded from video for 24h at the end of the free access period. To assess cleanliness, Escherichia coli (E. coli) counts were measured on the udder region of the goats and on each flooring type at the beginning of each restriction period. During the restriction period there was no difference in the time goats spent lying on any of the four flooring surfaces; however, goats on WS performed more lying bouts (P≤0.005) of shorter duration (P≤0.005) compared to goats on RM during day 2, 3, 4 and 5. During the free access period, goats spent more time on RM and PS and less time on MM and WS (% observations/24h: RM: 46.3, PS: 30.4, MM: 11.6, WS: 11.5, SED: 6.19, P<0.001). Moreover, goats preferred to urinate (% urination events/24h: WS: 88.8, MM: 3.8, PS: 4.7, RM: 2.7, SED: 2.48, P<0.001) and defecate (% defecation events/24h: WS: 48.3, MM: 11.3, PS: 19.5, RM: 20.9, SED: 3.21, P<0.001) on WS. The number of E. coli recovered from the udder was affected by flooring type (P<0.001) with the highest numbers recovered while goats were restricted on WS. These results suggest that goats prefer to use different flooring types depending on the behaviour they are preforming. Providing goats with multiple flooring options may better meet their needs in commercial systems, however further investigation into practical implementation of such designs are needed.