Journal of Dairy Research

Research Article

Influence of milk yield, stage of lactation, and body condition on dairy cattle lying behaviour measured using an automated activity monitoring sensor

Jeffrey M Bewleya1 p1 c1, Robert E Boycea2, Jeremy Hockina3, Lene Munksgaarda4, Susan D Eichera5, Mark E Einsteina1 and Michael M Schutza1

a1 Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

a2 IceRobotics Ltd., Roslin BioCentre, Roslin, Midlothian, EH25 9TT

a3 Barony College, Parkgate, Dumfries, Scotland, DG1 3NE

a4 Department of Animal Health, Welfare, and Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural Science, Aarhus University, 8830 Tjele, Denmark

a5 Livestock Behavior Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, West Lafayette, IN 47907


Time spent lying by lactating Holstein-Friesian cows of varying body condition scores (BCS) and milk yield was measured using an animal activity monitor. A 3-week average BCS was calculated for each cow; and in total, 84 cows were selected with 28 cows each among three BCS categories (Thin: BCS<2·75; Moderate: 2·75xs2A7EBCS<3·25; Heavy: BCSxs2A7E3·25) and two stage of lactation categories (<150 days in milk or >150 days in milk). Cows were kept in two management systems: parlour/freestall (n=60) or automated milking system/freestall (n=24). Behaviour was recorded for 5·3±0·1 d for each cow. Production levels were considered using a 28-d rolling average of daily milk production. Cows that exhibited clinical lameness before or during the observation period were excluded from analyses. For cows exhibiting oestrus, the day prior to, day of, and day following breeding were removed. The final analysis included 77 cows (408 d of observation). A mixed model was fitted to describe average daily hours spent lying. Results demonstrated that lying time increased as days in milk (DIM) increased (P=0·05). Variables that were tested but not significant (P>0·05) were BCS category, parity category (1 or xs2A7E2) and 28-d rolling average daily milk production. Although a numerical trend for increasing hours spent lying with increasing BCS was observed, after accounting for other factors in the mixed model, BCS did not significantly impact lying time. Continued investigation of these management factors that impact lying time and bouts, using new technologies, more cows, and more herds will help dairy owners better manage facilities and cow movements to optimize this essential behaviour.

(Received January 07 2009)

(Accepted June 30 2009)

(Online publication September 17 2009)


c1 For correspondence; e-mail:

p1 Present address: Department of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546, USA