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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pp. 125-130 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference (Fort Worth, Texas USA)  701P0203.(doi:10.13031/2013.11612)
Authors:   M. W. Overton, D. A. Moore, and W. M. Sischo1

Cows need to spend considerable time lying for maximum feed efficiency (decreased maintenance energy requirements and effective rumination) and for optimum health (prevent lameness). Several indices are used by dairy consultants to evaluate cow comfort in free stall barns. The purpose of this paper is to compare three indices of free stall use, proportion lying, stall use index, and comfort index, and factors that affect their interpretation. Time-lapse video photography was used to examine effects of environmental temperature and management on dairy cattle lying behavior and to compare three commonly used methods for evaluating free stall usage during summer conditions in a high producing dairy. Four video cameras and six temperature probes were mounted in one free stall pen containing 144 stalls and 129 highproducing Holstein-Friesian cows. Over a six-day period in July 1999, a time-lapse video recorder continuously captured observations on tape. Videotapes were reviewed using 60-min scan sampling techniques. Free stall-use index was defined as the number of cows lying divided by the total number of cows lying or standing but not eating. Cow comfort index was calculated as number observed lying in stalls divided by the total number either lying or standing in a stall. Increasing time elapsed since milking and higher environmental temperatures negatively influenced the stall-use index as evaluated with 60-minute scan sampling techniques. Using the cow comfort index instead of stall-use index or proportion lying resulted in less variation between time periods and an average of 89% over the entire study period.

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