Influence of manure scrapers on dairy cows in cubicle housing systems

Buck, Melanie; Friedli, Katharina; Steiner, Beat; Gygax, Lorenz; Wechsler, Beat; Steiner, Adrian (2013). Influence of manure scrapers on dairy cows in cubicle housing systems. Livestock science, 158(1-3), pp. 129-137. Elsevier 10.1016/j.livsci.2013.10.011

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Manure scrapers are widely used in dairy cow loose-housing systems. In order to evaluate the effects of the scrapers on the cows, we assessed their impact on the animals' cardiac activity, feeding behaviour, and the behavioural reactions of cows confronted with different types of scrapers. In part I of the study, we measured cardiac activity (mean R–R interval and RMSSD, a parameter of heart-rate variability) whilst observing the behaviour of 29 focal cows on three farms during situations with and without active manure scrapers. Lower RMSSD values were observed during scraping events while cows were either lying, standing or walking in the alleyway, standing completely in the lying cubicle, or standing half in the lying cubicle (P=0.03), but only tended to differ while directly confronted with the scraper (P=0.06). This indicates that dairy cows experienced at least some mild stress during manure-scraping events. In part II, the feeding behaviour of 12 cows on each of two farms was recorded by means of a jaw-movement sensor and compared between situations with the manure-scraping event following forage provision either within or outside the main daily feeding period (i.e. within 1 or after 2 h from forage provisioning, respectively). The duration of night-time feeding (P=0.049) and the number of feeding bouts (P=0.036) were higher when a manure-scraping event took place within the main daily feeding period, indicating that the cows' feeding behaviour had been disturbed. In part III, we observed the cows' behaviour on 15 farms during eight manure scraping events per farm, where each of five farms had one of three different scraper types. We assessed the cows' immediate reactions when confronted with the scraper. In addition, we recorded the number of animals present in the alleyways before and after the manure-scraping events. The more cows that were present in the alleyways before the scraping event, the lower the proportion of cows showing direct behavioural reactions both with (P=0.017) and without (P=0.028) scraper contact, and the higher the number of cows that left the alleyways (P<0.001). Scraper type did not influence the proportion of cows showing behavioural reactions. In conclusion, our results show that dairy cows perceive the manure-scraping event negatively in some situations, that feeding behaviour may be disturbed when scrapers are active during the main feeding period, and that cows avoid the scraper during crowded situations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > Veterinary Public Health / Herd Health Management
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV)
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV) > Clinic for Ruminants

UniBE Contributor:

Steiner, Adrian


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture








Susanne Portner

Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2014 08:16

Last Modified:

14 Oct 2015 11:37

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Dairy cows, Manure scraper, Heart-rate variability, Behaviour, Feeding behaviour


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