Research shows prepartum feeding behavior and interactions at feed bunk are associated with postpartum disease in transitioning dairy cattle

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Source: University of British Columbia

New research from UBC’s Animal Welfare Program shows that prepartum feeding behavior and interactions at the feed bunk are associated with postpartum disease in transitioning dairy cattle.

Read the article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030219309282

Abstract

Hyperketonemia and metritis are common in the weeks after calving. This study tested if feeding and agonistic behaviors before calving were associated with the development of hyperketonemia (HYK) and metritis after calving. Holstein cows on 5 commercial farms were monitored for HYK (as identified using a cow-side β-hydroxybutyrate test) and metritis (using visual and olfactory assessment of vaginal discharge); both tests were conducted twice a week for 2 wk. Based on this assessment, we selected a balanced sample of cows that remained healthy (no signs of illness; n = 20), cows diagnosed with either HYK (n = 20) or metritis (n = 20), and cows with both HYK and metritis (n = 20). Video recordings from the 8 wk before calving (scored every 2 wk for 90 min immediately after fresh feed delivery) were used to evaluate feeding behavior and competition at the feed bunk. Feeding behavior before calving was associated with postpartum diagnosis of HYK and metritis. Specifically, cows that spent less time eating had higher odds of HYK and metritis. Odds of remaining healthy (compared with becoming sick with at least 1 condition) increased by 1.3 times for every additional 15 min spent eating. Additionally, cows that were involved in fewer agonistic interactions prepartum were more likely to be diagnosed with both conditions during the postpartum period. Odds of remaining healthy (compared with becoming sick with at least one condition) increased by 1.9 times for every 6 additional interactions. We conclude that prepartum feeding and agonistic behaviors can be used to identify animals at risk of HYK and metritis postpartum.