Conventional dairy farming practices usually involve the early separation of calves from their dams. Dam-rearing or cow-calf contact (CCC) systems may offer an alternative rearing solution that allows for the expression of natural behaviours, such as suckling and bonding. However, the effects of such systems on rest and lying behaviours of lactating cows is relatively unstudied. Thus, the aims of this study were: (1) to assess the effects of a CCC system on lying behaviours in lactating dairy cows, and (2) to determine if cubicle use of treatment dams changes throughout the rearing period. Thirty-seven cow-calf pairs were assigned 1 of 2 treatments after calving: dam-rearing (treatment), where calves would be housed in the same facility as their dams, or separation shortly after parturition (control). Only treatment cows had access to a modified lying area in which full cow-calf contact was available. Daily lying time – as well as the duration and frequency of lying bouts – was collected for cows automatically using IceQube devices. Video recordings were also collected and used to perform scan sampling at 10-minute intervals for a 24-h period each week, during which the IDs of all cows lying down in stalls that were located within the contact area were recorded. Behavioural data was collected for approximately 14 weeks, starting when all cow-calf pairs had entered the experimental pen and continuing until weaning began. Preliminary findings may offer insight into the effects of utilizing cow-calf contact systems on cubicle use and lying behaviours of lactating dairy cows.
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