Zobel, G., Proudfoot, K., Cave, V. et al. 2020. The use of hides during and after calving in New Zealand dairy cows. Animals 10(12), 2255.
Isolation during calving is a common dairy cow behavior, however it has not been examined in large outdoor group settings. The provision of “hides” was monitored for its impact on calving location and cow–calf behavior. Stocking density and bedding management were either controlled (Phase 1) or managed according to farm practice (Phase 2). Hides were used for calving by 18% (Phase 1) and 22% (Phase 2) of the cows; a further 59% and 44% of cows moved into the hides after calving (Phase 1 and 2, respectively). When hides were not available, cows calved near the edges of the calving area. In Phase 2, as stocking density increased, cows tended to use the hides less. Older cows were less likely to isolate regardless of management. Cow–calf interaction with other cows and calves was lower when hides were available. There was no evidence that hides reduced incorrect matching of cows and calves by staff, however cases of “mismothering” (i.e., calves being taken by other dams) were observed. Since the majority of cows used the hides at some stage before or after calving, we suggest opportunities for seclusion should be provided in large calving groups.