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A note on overdispersion as an index of behavioural synchrony: a pilot study in dairy cows

Abstract : We developed a method for studying the synchrony of behaviour based on calculations of overdispersion of a binomial process. The lying behaviour of cows was investigated under two different housing units inside the same barn. The first unit housed 30 cows undergoing conventional milking and the second unit housed 27 cows undergoing automatic milking. The lying behaviour of the cows was observed over 3 weeks in 12 periods of 6 h each. Every 5 min, we counted the number of cows lying down in the cubicles. As external cues, like feeding and conventional milking, can promote synchrony in dairy cows, we expected that cows conventionally milked would show more behavioural synchrony than automatically milked cows. Cows lied down synchronously in both units (overdispersion 1.67, P < 0.01). Lying synchrony tended to be slightly bigger in automatically than in conventionally milked cows (overdispersion 1.76 v. 1.58, P = 0.09), although the proportion of cows lying down was on average greater in conventionally than in automatically milked cows (60.7% v. 45.6%). This suggests that synchronized lying behaviour in cows is a constant phenomenon that depends on social facilitation rather than on external cues. The overdispersion index appears to be a useful tool for studying the synchrony of animal behaviour when observations are made at the group level.
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Satu Raussi, Lauri Jauhiainen, S. Saastamoinen, Jutta Siivonen, Helena Hepola, et al.. A note on overdispersion as an index of behavioural synchrony: a pilot study in dairy cows. animal, Published by Elsevier (since 2021) / Cambridge University Press (until 2020), 2011, 5 (3), pp.428-432. ⟨10.1017/S1751731110001928⟩. ⟨hal-02647725⟩



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