Relative motivations of dairy cows to be milked or fed in a Y-maze and an automatic milking system

Prescott, N.B.; Mottram, T.T.; Webster, A.J.F.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 57(1-2): 23-33

1998


ISSN/ISBN: 0168-1591
DOI: 10.1016/s0168-1591(97)00112-3
Accession: 003255817

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Abstract
The relative motivations of cows to be milked or fed were examined in four experiments. In experiments I and II, six high (HY, 33.9 l/day, s.d. 5.4 l) and six low (LY, 13.8 l/day, s.d. 1.61) yielding dairy cows were given the choice to be milked or not in a Y-maze five times/day every 3.5 h. The mean number of milkings chosen/cow cntdot day during the last 3 days of each part of each experiment was 3.3 (max 5, min 0) for the HYs and 2.1 (max 4, min 0) for the LYs, but this difference was not significant (P > 0.05). In experiment 111, six HYs (35.2 l/day s.d.3.1 l) were given the choice between being milked or fed 0.33 kg of pelleted concentrate food. At every opportunity the cows chose to be fed. In experiment IV, 12 cows (6 HY and 6 LY, yielding 27.5 l/day (s.d.3.36 1) and 13.6 l/day (s.d.1.35 l) respectively) were allowed voluntary attendance to an automatic milking system (AMS) for 15 h/day. The mean number of milkings chosen/cow cntdot day over the 8 days was 1.2 (max 4.1, min 0) for the HYs and 0.8 (max 3.6, min 0) for the LYs, but this difference was not significant (P > 0.05). When fed concentrate (HYs: 4 kg/day, LYs: 2 kg/day) in the AMS, the HYs' milking choices rose significantly to a mean of 4.0 (max 6.6, min 0.3) (P < 0.025), and the LYs' rose non-significantly to 1.6 (max 5.6, min 0) (P > 0.05). Individual cows may find milking either positively or negatively reinforcing, but overall, the motivation to be milked is weak. Food is significantly more rewarding than milking and likely to be a necessary incentive to attract cows to an AMS.