Environmental enrichment of dairy cows and calves in indoor housing

Roi Mandel*, H R Whay, E. Klement, Christine J Nicol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
570 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of farmers who choose to keep their cows indoors throughout the year. Indoor housing of cows allows farmers to provide high yielding individuals with a nutritionally balanced diet fit for their needs, and it has important welfare benefits for both cows and their calves, such as protection from predators, parasites and exposure to extreme weather conditions. However, it also confronts cows and calves with a wide range of environmental challenges. These include abiotic environmental sources of stress (e.g. exposure to loud and aversive sound) and confinement-specific stressors (e.g. restricted movement and maintenance in abnormal social groups). Cows and calves that live indoors are also faced with the challenge of occupying long periods of time with a limited range of possible behavioural patterns. Environmental enrichment can improve biological functioning (measured as increased lifetime reproductive success, increased inclusive fitness or a correlate of these such as improved health), help animals to cope with stressors in their surroundings, prevent frustration, increase the fulfillment of behavioural needs, and promote more positive affective states. Here we review recent findings on the effect of social, occupational, physical, sensory and nutritional enrichment on dairy cows and calves, and we assess the appropriateness and practicality of implementing different enrichment practices in commercial dairy farms. Some of the enrichment methods reviewed here may also be applied to those more extensive cattle raising systems, where similar challenges occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1695-1715
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume99
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jan 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Keywords

  • Social enrichment
  • Zero grazing
  • Animal welfare
  • Low resilience behaviours

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