Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/7/2008
Publication Date: 7/7/2008
Citation: Odriscoll, K., Schutz, M.M., Eicher, S.D. 2008. Effect of rubber flooring on cow locomotion and gene expression [abstract]. Journal of Dairy Science. 91, E-Suppl. 1:594.
Technical Abstract: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of 2 dairy cow housing systems on cow locomotion and expression of genes associated with lameness, during the dry and peri-parturient period. Cows were assigned to free-stall housing with either rubber (RUB; n=13) or concrete (CON; n=14) at the feed-face immediately after their first calving, and managed on this system during all subsequent lactations. Between lactations cows remained in a straw bedded-pack dry-cow pen. Cows entered the experiment at the end of either their 1st (n=16) or 2nd (n=11) lactations. Locomotion scores and blood samples were obtained at approximately -60, -30, 0, +7 and +14 days relative to calving. Expression of TAC1, HRH1, and MMP13 in blood leukocytes was estimated using qRT-PCR. Treatment effects on locomotion scores, cow speed, and gene expression were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA. Contrary to expectation, provision of rubber flooring did not improve dairy cow locomotion (P>0.05). However day (d) had an effect on locomotion score and speed (P<0.01and P<0.001), both peaking on day 0. Post calving, cows on CON were slower than RUB, relative to pre calving (P=0.01). Cows at the end of the 2nd lactation were slower than cows at the end of the 1st (P<0.01), particularly RUB cows (P<0.01). RUB cows had higher expression of MMP13 than CON (P<0.05), which is more highly expressed in lame cows than sound. Cows in RUB also tended to have higher expression levels of TAC1 (P=0.06), which is a receptor for substance-P. We hypothesize that adaptation to the straw surface during the dry period may have resulted in more pain for cows coming from rubber flooring than from concrete flooring. MMP13 is also up-regulated in clinically lame cows and thus this gene holds promise as an objective indicator of lameness. However, further study is required to confirm and clarify these results. These results are useful for producers weighing the benefits of investing in rubber flooring.