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The Importance of Good Handling Skills for Dairy Cows

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Dr. Proudfoot presented this information for DAIReXNET on November 5, 2015. To see the full recorded webinar, please visit http://www.extension.org/pages/15830/archived-dairy-cattle-webinars

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The Importance of Good Handling Skills for Dairy Cows

  1. 1. The Importance of Good Handling Skills for Dairy Cows Katy Proudfoot, PhD The Ohio State University
  2. 2. The plan • Why good handling skills are important • From the cow’s perspective • What to look for on-farm • When to intervene
  3. 3. Negative Behavior High fear Low production Handlers behavior and animal welfare Poor welfare Hemsworth et al. (2000)
  4. 4. Positive Behavior Low fear High production Handler behavior and animal welfare Good welfare Hemsworth et al. (2000)
  5. 5. Handler behavior and animal welfare POSITIVE behavior Gentle touching Gentle stroking Soft talking Slow movements NEGATIVE behavior Slapping Pushing Hitting with object Using prod Tail-twists Loud yelling Abrupt movements
  6. 6. From the cow’s perspective
  7. 7. Flight zones ‘Flight zone’
  8. 8. What does flight zone tell you? VS
  9. 9. Pajor, et al. 2003Appl Anim Behav Sci, 80:93 What causes fear and aversion? Give cows the choice between two handling techniques, and see which they AVOID Shout!Nothing “Y-maze”
  10. 10. What do they choose? -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 Nothing Nothing Nothing Hit/shout Hit Shout Shout Cattle prod Patting Feeding #cowsthatchoseeachside
  11. 11. What do they choose? -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 Nothing Nothing Nothing Hit/shout Hit Shout Shout Cattle prod Patting Feeding #cowsthatchoseeachside
  12. 12. What do they choose? -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 Nothing Nothing Nothing Hit/shout Hit Shout Shout Cattle prod Patting Feeding #cowsthatchoseeachside Shouting is as aversive as an electric shock
  13. 13. Negative handler behavior 1. Handlers either behaved positively or negatively with cows 2. Brought cows into parlor 3. Each handler came into parlor 4. Measured physiological stress response of cows
  14. 14. • Cows showed stress response when negative handlers entered the parlor • Cows can recognize people, and can remember who treats them negatively Negative handler behavior Rushen, et al. 1999. J. Dairy Sci. 82:720
  15. 15. How do cows recognize people?
  16. 16. How do cows recognize people? Cows trained to push a lever and get food from one person (‘rewarder’) Tested to see who cows would choose if: Faces were visible Faces were covered
  17. 17. How do cows recognize people? 0 20 40 60 80 100 Face visible Face covered %Choices Rewarder Non-reward
  18. 18. Cows use faces and other features 0 20 40 60 80 100 Face visible Face covered %Choices Rewarder Non-reward
  19. 19. Negative handler behavior Hemsworth. 2000. Journal of Animal Science. 78:2821 Australian researchers visited 66 dairy farms and measured the amount of negative handling that cows experienced
  20. 20. Negative handler behavior Negative handler behavior correlated with:  Cow fearfulness (measured by flight zone)  Low milk yield  Poor conception rates Hemsworth. 2000. J Anim Sci. 78:2821
  21. 21. When producers were given a course on animal handling:  They were less likely to use negative handling  They believed that cows were easier to handle  Cows produced more milk and had higher conception rates Benefits of handling training Hemsworth. 2000. J Anim Sci. 78:2821
  22. 22. Low-stress handling There are handling techniques that handlers can learn so they do not need to shout, hit, kick or prod the cows to get them to move
  23. 23. Determining if a farm could benefit from training LOOK AND LISTEN
  24. 24. Look and listen to the cows • Do they have large flight zones? • Do they look ‘on-edge’ or vigilant? • Do they quickly move away from you and other people? • Do they slip/fall? • Do they ‘bunch’? • Do they vocalize?
  25. 25. Look and listen to the handlers • Do they hit/punch the cows? • Are they using a prod when it is not necessary? • Are they yelling/cursing? • Are they banging objects together to make loud noise? • Do they drag calves? • Do they seem like they don’t care about the animals?
  26. 26. If YES to any of those questions • Handlers and their cows would benefit from handling training • Training should teach skills, but should also impact attitude • Moving cows using flight zone and point of balance • Avoiding negative behavior • Using herd behavior to move cows • Using positive reinforcement Why should I care?
  27. 27. Measuring flight zone • Chose a sample of cows to measure • Slowly start to walk up to cows at the feedbunk or in the pen (1 step/sec) • If cows are moving away when you are >~5 to 10ft away, they are likely fearful
  28. 28. Negative Behavior High fear Low production Handler behavior and animal welfare Poor welfare Hemsworth et al. (2000) Negative attitude
  29. 29. Improving attitude • Improving skills can improve attitude and job satisfaction • Owners should be aware of employees that do not care about the animals, or are not satisfied with their jobs
  30. 30. Action should be taken when… • The employees could benefit from training • If you see something that you are not comfortable with • If employee attitude is a problem
  31. 31. See abuse, stop abuse
  32. 32. Handling training available • Merck DairyCare365TM https://www.dairycare365.com/solution/dairy- care365-training-series • Validus/Kansas State Animal Care Training https://www.animalcaretraining.org/PackageDetail.a spx?type=DAIRY • ProHand Dairy Cows Coming soon… • National Dairy FARM Program http://www.nationaldairyfarm.com/resources
  33. 33. Questions?

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