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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Pre-partum milking effects on parlor behavior, endocrine and immune responses in Holstein heifers

Authors
item EICHER, SUSAN
item Schutz, M - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Willard, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Bowers, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Gandy, S - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV
item Graves, K - MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIV

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 15, 2007
Publication Date: June 28, 2007
Citation: Eicher, S.D., Schutz, M.M., Willard, S.T., Bowers, S., Gandy, S., Graves, K. 2007. Pre-partum milking effects on parlor behavior, endocrine and immune responses in Holstein heifers. Journal of Dairy Research. 74(4):431-438.

Interpretive Summary: Transition of primiparous heifers to the milking herd is a period with multiple stressors. The effects of parlor experience and prepartum milking (pre-milking) on behavior within the parlor after calving were investigated. Two experiments were conducted. The first was in a free-stall housing confinement system and the second was in a modified grazing system. In experiment 1, shifting while in the parlor was the only behavior that was greater at first milking in control heifers. The behavior of shifting weight has been associated with stressful situations. Kicking was most frequent on d 2 for heifers that only had parlor experienced but not milking experience prior to calving. These data show that behavior problems in the parlor were very transient after calving. In experiment 2, pre-partum milked heifers shifted more at their first milking (d -21) than did the control heifers at their first milking (d1). Stomping and kicking were not different between treatments for the first milking comparison. Shifting by heifers over the observations period decreased from d -21 compared to d -5. In this experiment pre-milked heifers shifted more on d 1 post-calving than did the control heifers. Stomping and kicking were not different between treatments. However, stomping decreased for the pre-milked heifers at d -5, but increased again at d 9 post-calving. The data from the second experiment show that shifting and stomping parlor behaviors decreased by d 5 prior to calving. Behaviors of the pre-milked heifers were reversed in these experiments, suggesting an effect of housing conditions on the efficacy of pre-partum milking to reduce initial parlor stress. This research can impact dairy producers by demonstrating a method to reduce the stress of transition to the parlor for dairy heifers in confinement housing.

Technical Abstract: Transition of primiparous heifers to the milking herd is a period with multiple stressors. The effects of parlor experience and prepartum milking (pre-milking) on behavior within the parlor after calving were investigated. Two experiments were conducted. The first was in a free-stall housing confinement system and the second was in a modified grazing system. Forty-eight first calf heifers, blocked by expected parturition date, were assigned to control, parlor experience, or pre-milk treatments in experiment 1. Parlor experience heifers were taken through the parlor without milking and pre-milk heifers were milked for 3 wk prior to estimated parturition. In experiment 2, twenty heifers were assigned to a pre-partum milked or control group as in experiment 1. Behavior in the parlor was evaluated for d 21, 14, 7, 5, 3, and 1 prior to calving and d 1, 3, 7, 9, 14, and 16 post-calving. In experiment 1, shifting while in the parlor was the only behavior that was greater at first milking in control heifers (P < 0.05). Kicking was most frequent for parlor experienced heifers on d 2 (P < 0.05). These data show that behavior problems in the parlor were very transient after calving. In experiment 2, pre-milked heifers shifted more (P < 0.05) at their first milking (d -21) than did the control heifers at their first milking (d1). Stomping and kicking were not different between treatments for the first milking comparison (P > 0.10). Shifting within cow decreased from d -21 compared to d -5 (P < 0.05). In this experiment pre-milked heifers shifted more on d 1 post-calving than did the control heifers (P < 0.05). Stomping and kicking were not different between treatments. However, stomping decreased (P < 0.05) for the pre-milked heifers at d -5, but increased again at d 9 post-calving (P < 0.05). The data from the second experiment show that shifting and stomping parlor behaviors decreased by d 5 prior to calving (P < 0.05). Behaviors of the pre-milked heifers were reversed in these experiments, suggesting an effect of housing conditions on the efficacy of pre-partum milking to reduce initial parlor stress. This research can impact dairy producers by demonstrating a method to reduce the stress of transition to the parlor for dairy heifers in confinement housing.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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