Effects of behaviour on the development of claw lesions in early lactation dairy cows
Claw lesions such as haemorrhages (HAEM) or white line separation (WLS) are caused by a variety of factors. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between behaviour and the development of claw lesions. Holstein cows (n=33) were housed in four pens with sand-bedded cubicles and solid concrete flooring, and stocked at two different densities in order to increase variation in cubicle use. Lying, feeding and standing behaviour were recorded for 48 consecutive hours per week during the first 3 weeks after calving using 10min scan sampling from video. Claw health was scored at approximately 11, 40, 69, and 95 days after calving. For each time point and cow, we calculated four hoof health scores by summing the respective lesion severity scores for all four feet: total HAEM (HAEM-T), HAEM sole only (HAEM-S), HAEM white line only (HAEM-W), and total WLS (WLS-T). Analysis consisted of linear mixed models with repeated observations and HAEM-T, HAEM-S, HAEM-W and WLS-T, respectively, as dependent variables. The lesion scores at first claw scoring were included as covariates in each model. Cows that spent more time standing with their front feet in the cubicle had significantly higher haemorrhage scores in all feet (HAEM-T). Lying time was not associated with any of the lesion scores, perhaps because cubicle design and management encouraged reasonable lying times (11.0h/d on average). In conclusion, standing partially in the cubicle increased the risk of claw haemorrhages in dairy cows after calving. Barns should be designed and managed to minimize this behaviour.