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Title: Managing first lactation heifers to maximise welfare and productivity
Author: Boyle, Alastair Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 4274
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2011
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Regrouping in commercial dairy herds often involves integrating new animals into an established group. This can be particularly stressful for first-lactation dairy heifers when integrated with the main dairy herd after calving as they are often subject to high levels of aggression and bullying. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on production performance. The aim of the research within this thesis was to identify the effect of different re grouping regimes on the welfare and productivity of first lactation" heifers when introduced to a group containing older cows. Experiment 1 examined the effects of introducing heifers to an established group after evening rather than morning milking, and found welfare benefits (in terms of reduced received aggression) in this approach. Experiment 2 determined the effects of mixing heifers with non-lactating cows during the pre-calving period on welfare and performance in the post-calving period. This study showed that these animals were subject to less aggression in the post calving period than those not mixed with older cows prior to calving. Experiments 3 and 4 examined the impact of giving heifers different levels of 'recovery' period after calving before integrating with an established group. Both keeping heifers in a separate heifer group for two weeks after calving, and even just extending the time period in a straw-calving pen, led to improvements in welfare. No effect on stress hormone levels or on productivity were shown in any of the studies. In all studies heifers lay for relatively short periods (i.e. less than 6 hours) during the first 24 hours after introduction to cubicle accommodation if this occurred relatively soon after calving. Lying time was increased if heifers were allowed to stay in straw pens during this period. It is suggested that future research should determine if pain causes reduced lying behaviour in freshly-calved heifers in cubicle accommodation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available