Use of continuous video-recording to quantify dairy cow behavior in a free-stall barn

Open Access
LeBlanc, Sarah A.
Area of Honors:
Animal Sciences
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Troy Ott, Thesis Supervisor
  • Alexander Nikolov Hristov, Faculty Reader
  • Troy Ott, Honors Advisor
  • dairy
  • cow
  • free-stall
  • behavior
During the past 50 years, dairy facilities and management have changed dramatically. The challenge for modern dairy production is to provide facilities and management that maximize cow comfort and welfare in order to increase efficiency of production. The present study used continuous (24 h/d) video-recording to record the behaviors of 6 lactating dairy cows in a modern free-stall barn environment over a 6-day period. Consistent with the goals of good management practices, lactating dairy cows in the free-stall barn spent the greatest amount of time lying, then feeding, then milking, with other behaviors accounting for a small portion of their daily schedule. Cows spent an average of 12.75 (SD=1.99) h/d lying, 6.03 (SD=1.30) h/d feeding, 1.63 (SD=0.13) h/d being milked, 0.35 (SD=0.14) h/d drinking water, and 1.32 (SD=0.54), 1.10 (SD=0.86), and 0.87 (SD=0.55) h/d standing in the feeding aisle, stall aisle, and stalls, respectively. The average number of lying bouts was 8.31 (SD=1.45) per cow per day and the average bout duration was 1.34 (SD=0.29) h. Most feeding and drinking behaviors occurred during the day between morning and evening milkings, while the highest concentration of lying behaviors occurred during the night. Cows defecated 10.4 (SD=2.2) times and urinated 7.6 (SD=2.2) times per day. Cows tended to defecate and urinate in areas where they spent the most time when they were not lying. Eliminative behaviors occurred mainly during times of transition from one behavior to another or one location to another. Cow production characteristics, such as lactation number and milk production, affected the amount of time spent performing behaviors such as feeding and lying, while days in milk did not appear to affect these behaviors. Temperature and stall characteristics also may have had an impact on lying times. An understanding of cow behavior can be important when trying to improve animal welfare and production and reduce the environmental impact of a dairy operation.