Short communication: Detection of lameness in dairy cows using a grooming device

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Lameness in dairy cattle is a common welfare problem with significant economic implications. All too often, appropriate treatment is delayed or neglected due to insufficient detection of lame cows. Brush usage is considered a low-resilience activity; that is, one that typically decreases when energy resources are limited or when the cost involved in the activity increases, such as during sickness and stress. The aim of this study was to determine the association between brush usage and different degrees of lameness. Locomotion scores of 209 lactating Holstein dairy cows were collected individually once a week for 14 consecutive weeks, using a 5-point visual assessment scoring system (1 = nonlame, 2 = uneven gait, 3 = mild lameness, 4 = lameness, 5 = severe lameness). Daily brush usage was collected automatically from 3 cowsheds of similar size and structure located on a commercial dairy farm. In each of the 3 cowsheds, 2 brushes were installed, one next to the feed bunk, and the other away from the feed bunk (on the opposite side of the cowshed). Linear and generalized linear mixed-effects models were used to evaluate the association between locomotion scores and daily measures of brush usage. We found a significant interaction between locomotion score and brush location (near to/distant from feed bunk) on the daily proportion of cows using the brush at least once and on daily duration of brush usage. Specifically, we showed that lame and severely lame cows did not use brushes that were installed away from the feed bunk but continued to use brushes that were installed next to the feed bunk. Brush usage by cows with uneven gait (locomotion score 2) or with mild lameness (locomotion score 3) did not differ from that of nonlame cows (locomotion score 1). The results of this study suggest that monitoring of daily usage of brushes located away from the feed bunk could be a useful method for detecting lameness and severe lameness in dairy cows. However, the use of this method to detect mild lameness or cases of abnormal gait is, at this stage, less promising.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)1511-1517
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the Harry and Sylvia Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program (Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel) and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Support of Animal Welfare in Israel (UFAW-SAWI) fund (Wheathampstead, UK) for funding R. Mandel and this research, and to Elodie F. Briefer (Ethology and Animal Welfare Unit, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zürich) for commenting on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Dairy Science Association

    Research areas

  • automated brush, locomotion scores, sickness behavior

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