"Time budgets of Australian dairy cows on pasture."

N. Botheras - Institute of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne, Australia
P. Hemsworth - Animal Welfare Science Centre, Australia & Institute of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne, Australia
S. Chaplin - Institute of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne, Australia
A.M. de Pastille - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
J. Rushen - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

In Australia, most dairy cows are grazed outdoors all year round. At milking time, the herd is brought from the pasture to the milking facility, where some cows may have to wait for an extended period of time to be milked. The amount of time cows spend off pasture may affect the time available to perform important behaviours and in turn impact on their welfare and productivity. This study aimed to describe the time budgets of Australian dairy cows on pasture.

Time budgets of 20 Friesian cows (parity 1-7) were described during peak (3-6wks) and mid (23-26wks) lactation, on a dairy farm in south-east Australia. Animals were managed as part of the normal milking herd and were milked twice daily, receiving a fresh allocation of pasture at each milking. The posture and behaviour of each animal was observed once every 10-min during six 4-h observation sessions conducted over four days.

Average time spent grazing was similar during the two stages of lactation (41%±6.1 in peak lactation (PL), 39%±6.2 in mid lactation (ML), mean±SD), but cows ruminated more in ML (39%±3.9 vs 34%±4.9) possibly due to poorer quality pasture. Cows were observed lying for 31%±6.6 and 40%±6.5 of the time in PL and ML, respectively. On average, cows were off pasture in PL for 195-min (range 96-311) and in ML for 101-min (range 63-156). Regression analysis indicated that in PL time spent off pasture significantly (p<0.05) predicted time spent grazing and ruminating, and parity significantly predicted time off pasture. The more time cows spent off pasture, the less time spent grazing and ruminating, and the lower an animal's parity, the more time they were off pasture. In ML, although cows spent less than 2% of time in social behaviour, time off pasture was negatively related to time spent in social interactions.

The Animal Welfare Science Centre was established by the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria. The Centre focuses and coordinates the research and academic resources of the three collaborating organisations, providing the animal industries, animal users, the farming community, Government, the general community and the academic community with an internationally competitive research, teaching and training resource in animal welfare.