Associations between body condition score, locomotion score, and sensor-based time budgets of dairy cattle during the dry period and early lactation

Hut, P.R.; Hostens, M.M.; Beijaard, M.J.; Eerdenburg, F.J.C.M. van; Hulsen, J.H.J.L.; Hooijer, G.A.; Stassen, E.N.; Nielen, M.


Lameness, one of the most important disorders in the dairy industry, is related to postpartum diseases and has an effect on dairy cow welfare, leading to changes in cows' daily behavioral variables. This study quantified the effect of lameness on the daily time budget of dairy cows in the transition period. In total, 784 multiparous dairy cows from 8 commercial Dutch dairy farms were visually scored on their locomotion (score of 1–5) and body condition (score of 1–5). Each cow was scored in the early and late dry period as well as in wk 4 and 8 postpartum. Cows with locomotion scores 1 and 2 were grouped together as nonlame, cows with score 3 were considered moderately lame, and cows with scores 4 and 5 were grouped together as severely lame. Cows were equipped with 2 types of sensors that measured behavioral parameters. The leg sensor provided number of steps, number of stand-ups (moving from lying to standing), lying time, number of lying bouts, and lying bout length. The neck sensor provided eating time, number of eating bouts, eating bout length, rumination time, number of rumination bouts, and rumination bout length. Sensor data for each behavioral parameter were averaged between 2 d before and 2 d after locomotion scoring. The percentage of nonlame cows decreased from 63% in the early dry period to 46% at 8 wk in lactation; this decrease was more severe for cows with higher parity. Cows that calved in autumn had the highest odds for lameness. Body condition score loss of >0.75 point in early lactation was associated with lameness in wk 4 postpartum. Moderately lame cows had a reduction of daily eating time of around 20 min, whereas severely lame cows had a reduction of almost 40 min. Similarly, moderately and severely lame dry cows showed a reduction of 200 steps/d, and severely lame cows in lactation showed a reduction of 600 steps/d. Daily lying time increased by 26 min and lying bout length increased by 8 min in severely lame cows compared with nonlame cows. These results indicate a high prevalence of lameness on Dutch dairy farms, with an increase in higher locomotion scores from the dry period into early lactation. Time budgets for multiparous dairy cows differed between the dry period and the lactating period, with a higher locomotion score (increased lameness) having an effect on cows' complete behavioral profile. Body condition score loss in early lactation was associated with poor locomotion postpartum, whereas lameness resulted in less eating time in the dry period and early lactation, creating a harmful cycle.