Social behaviour and injuries of horned cows in loose housing systems

C. Menke et al., Social behaviour and injuries of horned cows in loose housing systems, ANIM WELFAR, 8(3), 1999, pp. 243-258
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Animal Sciences
Journal title
ISSN journal
0962-7286 → ACNP
Year of publication
243 - 258
SICI code
The relationship between social behaviour and skin injuries (caused by horn s) of loose housed horned cows was investigated on 35 dairy farms. While th e frequencies of two agonistic behaviour elements (push and chase away) wer e positively correlated with the occurrence of skin injuries, the frequenci es of butting and horning were not. Butting appears to have an ambivalent m otivation, in that its occurrence is correlated positively both with agonis t ic behaviour and with social licking. Horning showed a positive correlati on with social licking only. Four groups of husbandry conditions that may b e associated with the occurrence of social behaviour and of injuries were d istinguished: i) herd management, with variables including problem solving management by the farmer, integration of new cows, and dealing with peripar turient and oestrus cows; ii) human-animal relationship, with variables inc luding ability to identify individual cows, frequency of brushing the cows, number of milkers, and frequency of personnel changes; iii) animal charact eristics, with the variable of herd size, and iv) stable characteristics, w ith the variable of space per cow (m(2)). The relevance of the husbandry va riables investigated here had been confirmed in a previous stepwise regress ion analysis (Menke 1996). The variables for herd management and human-anim al relationship conditions correlated in a consistent way with the occurren ce of agonistic behaviour and/or of injuries, while most of them also corre lated in the opposite direction with the occurrence of social licking. Herd size correlated positively with agonistic behaviour but negatively with so cial licking. Space per cow correlated negatively with agonistic behaviour and injuries. In more than 70 per cent of the herds investigated, the level s of agonistic behaviour and of skin injuries were low, implying that horne d dairy cows can be kept with less risk than is often assumed. We argue tha t such risks strongly depend on management factors that can be improved.