Cows highly motivated to access a brush

19 Nov, 2018 04:00 AM
Comments
0
 
A cow uses an automated mechanical brush at the University of Britsh Columbia's Dairy Education and Research Centre.
The results of this study show that cows are highly motivated to access a mechanical brush.
A cow uses an automated mechanical brush at the University of Britsh Columbia's Dairy Education and Research Centre.

Grooming behaviour is expressed by many animals, including cows, and helps them maintain a healthy coat and skin. Cows can groom themselves and herd mates by licking. When housed in naturalistic environments, they also use trees or other structures to scratch parts of their body that are otherwise difficult to reach.

On some dairy farms, cows do not have access to surfaces suitable for scratching themselves, but other farms are now providing cows with automated mechanical brushes that facilitate grooming behaviour.

When cows are allowed access to mechanical brushes, they are cleaner and spend about fivefold more time grooming than when brushes are not available, suggesting that these brushes are important for the cow.

To better estimate just how important access to an automated mechanical brush is to indoor-housed dairy cows, researchers at the University of Britsh Columbia's Dairy Education & Research Centre conducted a study designed to test the motivation of dairy cows to access a mechanical brush.

Motivation testing can be used to assess how important resources are to animals. In motivation studies, the willingness of animals to work for access to a resource of interest (in this case a mechanical brush) is typically compared with the animal's willingness to work for other resources known to be important for the animal (e.g. fresh feed).

To see a video of a cow using the gate to access the brush visit:

This allows researchers to compare the relative importance of the different resources to the animal. Animals are generally highly motivated to feed, so feed can be used as a 'gold standard' to compare with other resources.

In the experiment, cows were trained to push open a weighted gate. During training, cows were rewarded with some grain after successfully pushing open the gate. It took about a week until all the cows learned to successfully open the gate from a closed position.

After the successful completion of training, the test sessions started. In the test sessions, the weight that cows were required to push to open the gate was gradually increased, thereby increasing the "work" required to access either a mechanical brush, fresh feed (tested after 1.5 hours of feed deprivation; a resource researchers assumed that cows would be highly mo(a resource researchers assumed that cows would not be highly motivated to access)tivated to access), or an empty pen .

To determine if testing order affected motivation to access the brush, all animals were tested twice: once before (Brush I) and once after (Brush II) they had been tested for motivation to access the feed and empty pen.

To access an empty pen, 4 of the 10 cows tested were not willing to push any weight, and the maximum weight pushed by any of the cows to access the empty pen was 14 kilograms.

In contrast, cows were willing to push higher weights to access either food or the mechanical brush, with many cows pushing 23kg and some pushing 41kg or more to access these resources.

The weight cows were willing to push was similar for the mechanical brush and for the fresh feed, and the weight cows were willing to push to access the mechanical brush did not differ between the first and second test phase.

The results of this study show that cows are highly motivated to access a mechanical brush, about as motivated as they are to access fresh feed after 1.5 hours of feed deprivation, and more motivated than they are to access an empty pen.

These results indicate that access to a mechanical brush is important for dairy cows, and provides scientific evidence in support of the practice of providing cows access to these brushes.D

For further information email marina.vonkeyserlingk@ubc.ca or dan.weary@ubc.ca or website www.landfood.ubc.ca/dairy_centre.

This report is based on McConnachie et al., 2018. Biol. Lett. 14: 20180303.

Want to read more stories like this?

Sign up to receive our e-newsletter delivered fresh to your email in-box twice a week.

Click here

Page:
1

POST A COMMENT


Screen name *
Email address *
Remember me?
Comment *
 
Best management practice of ryegrass and managing the residual height throughout dry periods is critical to enhance persistence of pasture. 
26 Dec 18 Best management practice of ryegrass and managing the residual height throughout dry periods is critical to enhance...
A new definition of 'genetically modified' currently awaiting parliamentary approval could see a swathe of new grasses on the market within three years.
13 Nov 18 A new definition of "genetically modified" currently awaiting parliamentary approval could see a swathe of new...
light grey arrow
What I find confusion and strange is that the NEW AUSTRALIAN DAIRY PLAN has not got any form or
light grey arrow
I am so looking forward to this milk! I have been waiting a long time for it to be on the
light grey arrow
Don't fall for the processors changing their contracts. They can change them back again without
Spending $2.7million to build a new dairy is part of a rolling upgrade and improvement plan for VAN Dairy Group, located at Cape Grim, Tasmania.29 Dec 18 Spending $2.7million to build a new dairy is part of a rolling upgrade and improvement plan for VAN Dairy Group,...
Australian Dairyfarmer's Jeanette Severs checked out the range of new and interesting products and services on show at the South Gippsland Dairy Expo in September, while Peter Roach caught up with suppliers at the Elmore Field Days in October.02 Dec 18 Australian Dairyfarmer's Jeanette Severs checked out the range of new and interesting products and services on show...
Australian farm chemical manufacturer Nufarm has repaired its balance sheet and is now hunting for acquisition opportunities.25 Sep 16 Australian farm chemical manufacturer Nufarm has repaired its balance sheet and is now hunting for acquisition...
Monopoly market may confront cropping sector under mega-merger proposal.22 Sep 16 Monopoly market may confront cropping sector under mega-merger proposal.