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Feeding behavior and performance of dairy cows in an automated milking system is related to personality traits.

A. J. Schwanke




Feeding behavior and performance of dairy cows in an automated milking system is related to personality traits.
A. J. Schwanke*1, K. M. Dancy1, G. B. Penner2, H. W. Neave3, T. J. DeVries1. 1Department of Animal Biosciences Guelph, ON, Canada, 2Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK, Canada, 3Ruakura Research Centre, AgResearch Ltd Hamilton, New Zealand.

A goal of dairy cattle management is to meet the nutritional requirements of individuals, but there is large variability in behavior and performance of cows. The objective of this study was to identify and associate personality traits with behavior and performance of cows milked in a free-traffic automated milking system (AMS) and determine if the response to concentrate allocation in an AMS is associated with those personality traits. Holstein cows (n = 15; 124 � 53 DIM; parity = 2.7 � 0.9) were exposed to 2 treatments in a crossover design with 2 consecutive 28-d periods: cows were provided a basal PMR with a pelleted AMS concentrate allowance of: 1) 3.0 kg/d (L-AMS) or 2) 6.0 kg/d (H-AMS). During the last 5 d of the first period, behaviors in response to a novel arena, object and human were scored to identify personality traits. Principal component analysis revealed 5 factors interpreted as personality traits (2 from novel human test = 72% cumulative variance; 3 from novel object and novel arena tests = 81% cumulative variance). Linear regressions were used to explore relationships between each factor and behavior and performance outcomes. Cows high on Factor 1 (active and vocal) had greater total DMI, sorting of the PMR, and lying bouts, but shorter lying bout duration (P < 0.01). Cows high on Factor 2 (fearful of human) had greater meal size (P = 0.05), gained BW (P = 0.04), and required more AMS fetches (P < 0.01), likely explaining their lesser concentrate intake and milk yield (P < 0.01). These cows were less likely to meet their target concentrate allowance on the H-AMS treatment (P < 0.01). Cows high on Factor 3 (active) gained BW (P = 0.05) and had more problematic milkings (P < 0.01), likely explaining their lesser milk yield (P = 0.02). Cows high on Factor 4 (social) had greater meal frequency and SCC (P < 0.01) and lesser % milk fat (P = 0.03) and protein (P = 0.04). Cows high on Factor 5 (fearful of object) had greater eating rate (P = 0.02), rumination (P = 0.03), and % milk protein (P = 0.01). These results indicate that personality traits of dairy cattle are associated with feeding behavior and performance in an AMS.

Keywords: temperament, robotic milking system, individual variation.