Allowing dairy cattle to access pasture or outdoor areas is known to be beneficial for cows' welfare and is considered important by the general public. However, in confinement-based operations with high-yielding cows, pasture access may be difficult to implement, especially for lactating animals. Providing pasture access to heifers and dry cows seems a more feasible option for most farms. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of providing high yielding dairy cows with free-choice pasture access during the dry period on their health, behavior and milk production. Over the study period, a total of 78 Holstein cows were assigned to 1 of 2 treatments during the dry period (51 ± 8 d): housing with free-choice access to the pasture (PAST) or housing continuously without any access to the outdoors (CTRL). After calving, all cows from both treatments were mixed and housed continuously. To assess the effects of the treatment on cows' performance, all animals enrolled were monitored both before calving and during the first 100 d in milk (DIM) of the following lactation. The behavior of all cows involved was monitored continuously during the whole observation period using collar-based sensors. All cows were inspected monthly to assess lameness, hock lesions, cleanliness, and body condition score (BCS). During the period after calving (0-100 DIM), milk production and composition were also monitored. Results showed that free-choice pasture access affected cows' feeding behavior. Before calving, the animals in PAST spent more time feeding than in CTRL and, interestingly, this difference tended to persist for several weeks after calving. During the dry period, cows in PAST were cleaner than in CTRL but no differences in locomotion and BCS were found between the 2 groups. Free-choice pasture access during the dry period also affected milk production during the following lactation. The cows that spent the dry period in PAST produced more milk than CTRL counterparts, particularly for the animals that calved during summer. In the current study we have found that providing free-choice pasture access during the dry period can positively affect the performance of dairy cattle and represents a desirable practice in confinement-based dairy production systems.

Free-choice pasture access for dry cows: effects on health, behavior and milk production / Leso, Lorenzo; Andrade, Rafaella R; Bambi, Gianluca; Becciolini, Valentina; Barbari, Matteo. - In: JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE. - ISSN 0022-0302. - ELETTRONICO. - (2023), pp. 7954-7964. [10.3168/jds.2022-23107]

Free-choice pasture access for dry cows: effects on health, behavior and milk production

Leso, Lorenzo
;
Bambi, Gianluca;Becciolini, Valentina;Barbari, Matteo
2023

Abstract

Allowing dairy cattle to access pasture or outdoor areas is known to be beneficial for cows' welfare and is considered important by the general public. However, in confinement-based operations with high-yielding cows, pasture access may be difficult to implement, especially for lactating animals. Providing pasture access to heifers and dry cows seems a more feasible option for most farms. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of providing high yielding dairy cows with free-choice pasture access during the dry period on their health, behavior and milk production. Over the study period, a total of 78 Holstein cows were assigned to 1 of 2 treatments during the dry period (51 ± 8 d): housing with free-choice access to the pasture (PAST) or housing continuously without any access to the outdoors (CTRL). After calving, all cows from both treatments were mixed and housed continuously. To assess the effects of the treatment on cows' performance, all animals enrolled were monitored both before calving and during the first 100 d in milk (DIM) of the following lactation. The behavior of all cows involved was monitored continuously during the whole observation period using collar-based sensors. All cows were inspected monthly to assess lameness, hock lesions, cleanliness, and body condition score (BCS). During the period after calving (0-100 DIM), milk production and composition were also monitored. Results showed that free-choice pasture access affected cows' feeding behavior. Before calving, the animals in PAST spent more time feeding than in CTRL and, interestingly, this difference tended to persist for several weeks after calving. During the dry period, cows in PAST were cleaner than in CTRL but no differences in locomotion and BCS were found between the 2 groups. Free-choice pasture access during the dry period also affected milk production during the following lactation. The cows that spent the dry period in PAST produced more milk than CTRL counterparts, particularly for the animals that calved during summer. In the current study we have found that providing free-choice pasture access during the dry period can positively affect the performance of dairy cattle and represents a desirable practice in confinement-based dairy production systems.
2023
7954
7964
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
Leso, Lorenzo; Andrade, Rafaella R; Bambi, Gianluca; Becciolini, Valentina; Barbari, Matteo
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Utilizza questo identificatore per citare o creare un link a questa risorsa: https://hdl.handle.net/2158/1326531
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