Animal health issues are a problem on many dairy farms, and much is already known about clinical treatments and the behaviour of sick animals. Animal health issues can influence behaviour seen around the milking parlour, but less is known about the relationship between the number of previous medical treatments and the queuing to be milked, the ‘milking order’. Information was collected on five afternoon milking sessions, the individual cows’ age and the medical treatment history of each cow in a group of 100 cows. The question addressed was whether the age and the medical treatment history of each cow in the herd affected its milking order. In addition, milking order was tested day to day, and was found to be consistent. A significant positive correlation was found between medical treatment history and milking order rank, meaning that cows with a higher medical treatment history tended to enter the milking parlour later than cows with a lower medical treatment history. In contrast with this finding, it was found that older cows were more likely to enter the milking parlour early when compared to younger animals, a finding which is supported by previous studies. These somewhat contradictory effects of a) age and b) medical treatment history on milking order suggest that health disorders may have long-term measurable effects on the position of a cow in the milking order, even when the effect of age on milking order is accounted for.
- milking order
- treatment history