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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Effects of Restraint Using Self-Locking Stanchions on Dairy Cows in Relation to Behavior, Feed Intake, Physiological Parameters, Health and Milk Yield

Authors
item Bolinger, D - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Albright, J - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Morrow, Julie
item Kenyon, S - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Cunningham, M - PURDUE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 9, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Certain management practices in the dairy industry may be stressful to the animals. One such practice is to lock dairy cows in the head gate at the feeder for routine veterinary exams or other health inspections. We wanted to know if forcing the cows to stand in the stanchion (or head lock) for an extended period of time (as might occur at a dairy farm) was stressful to the animals. Sixty-four dairy cows that were producing milk were retained in self-locking stanchions (i.e. head locks) for approximately 4 hr/day for four periods. Milk yield, milk fat percentage, somatic cell count (the number of these cells goes up if the cow has an infection in her udder) were unaffected by lockup. Milk protein percentage was significantly lower for cows that were restrained. Plasma cortisol (a stress hormone) and the neutrophil:mononuclear cell ratio (a measure of white blood cells that also increases following stress) were not different between cows that were restrained and cows that were not. No difference in the incidence of mastitis (an infection in the udder) and other health concerns was noted. Behaviorally, cows that were locked up spent more time lying during the remaining part of the day after lockup. Grooming was considered to be a behavior need. It was significantly increased in restrained cows during all times when they were not locked up and was one of the first behaviors performed following release. The use of self-locking stanchions did not appear to affect substantially the overall well-being of the cow.

Technical Abstract: Holstein cows (n=64) ranging from peak lactation to near dry were retained in self-locking stanchions (i.e. head locks) for approximately 4 hr/day for four periods in a modified switchback design. Milk yield, milk fat percentage, somatic cell count, and dry matter intake were unaffected by lockup. Milk protein percentage was significantly lower for cows that were erestrained. Plasma cortisol and the neutrophil:mononuclear cell ratio wer not significantly different between cows that were restrained and control cows. No difference in the incidence of mastitis and other health concerns was noted. Behaviorally, cows that were locked up spent significantly more time lying during the remaining part of the day after lockup. Grooming was considered to be a behavioral need. It was significantly increased in restrained cows during all times when they were not locked up and was one of the first behaviors performed following release. The use of self-locking stanchions did not appear to affect substantially the overall well-being of the cow.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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