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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Physiological and Behavioral Changes of Tail-Docked Cows During Fly Season

Authors
item Eicher, Susan
item Morrow, Julie
item Albright, J - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Williams, R - PURDUE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 27, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Tail-docking arouses animal welfare issues regarding docking procedures and animal well-being concerns during fly season. To address the latter question, we selected 8 tail-docked and 8 non-docked primiparous cows matched by stage of lactation. We evaluated well-being of cows housed in tie-stall barns during fly season with physiological, immunological, and behavior measures. Behavior was scan sampled for one hour at 0800, 1200, and 1600 h. Flies were counted just prior to behavior observations. Blood samples were taken after the 1200 h behavior observation for plasma and leukocyte separation. Cows were scored on d 5 for cleanliness on a 5 point scale. Lymphocyte CD4:CD8 ratio tended to decrease for tail-docked cows (P=.06), but gamma delta T-cells, CD4 and CD8 expression, and plasma IgG, haptoglobin, and alphal-acid glycoprotein were not different. Fly counts of tail-docked cows were greater for total counts (12.4 vs 15.4 flies per leg, P=.01) and rear leg counts (2.5 vs 4.9 flies per leg, P=.0001). Tail-docked cows were cleaner (3.4 vs 2.4, P=.03). Each time of day was analyzed separately for behaviors and reported as percent of observations. Control cows were observed with more tail-swings (18.3 vs 9.2, P=.001) at 0800 h, but docked cows tended to ruminate more (32.7 vs 21.9, P=.06). Standing was not different at the 1200 h observation (P=.10). Although tail-swings (42.1 vs 32.2, P=.10) were not significantly more frequent with docked cows at the 1600 h observation, foot stomps occurred only in the docked cows (P=.04). In conclusion, although docked cows were cleaner, as the fly numbers increased throughout the day fly avoidance behaviors also increased and foot stomping appeared as a alternative method for fly avoidance by docked cows.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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