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The motivation of cows to walk as thwarted by tethering

Abstract : Cows are often housed in tie-sheds for some part of the year (from 20 to 80% of adult cows in European countries). By contrast, regulations aiming at improving animal welfare generally provide for more opportunity to express behavior and so limit tethering (the European directive for sows). To inform current debate on whether cows should be tethered from an animal welfare point of view, 2 experiments were conducted to determine whether cows were motivated to walk (if their walking motivation was thwarted by tethering) and whether this frustration resulted in acute or chronic stress. In Exp. 1, fifteen cows were housed in tie-stalls for 1, 3, 9, or 27 d or loose-housed in a pen equipped with free-stalls for 27 d according to a Latin square design. On d 28, cows were observed in an 80-m(2) arena where they could walk or run for 10 min. In Exp. 2, fifteen cows were either loose-housed or tie-housed with or without 1 h of daily access to an exercise area according to a Latin square design (treatment duration of 27 d). On d 28, cows were observed in the test arena for 10 min as in Exp. 1. In addition, in Exp. 2, milk was sampled twice weekly for cortisol concentrations and cows underwent a chronic stress test (challenge with ACTH, followed by blood samples for cortisol concentrations). When they were tied with no access to exercise, cows displayed a greater locomotor activity in the test arena (time spent walking x 1.4 in Exp. 1, P < 0.05; time spent trotting x 5 in Exp. 2, P < 0.05), whatever the duration of tie-housing. Regular exercise caused locomotor activity in the arena test to revert to levels observed when cows were loose-housed. Basal cortisol concentrations in milk decreased with time whatever the housing condition (P < 0.001). This decrease was more marked when cows were tied than when they were loose-housed (P < 0.05). Cortisol responses to ACTH were similar between treatments. Adult cows are motivated to walk, and tethering thwarts this motivation. However, the frustration produced by tethering does not result in either acute or chronic physiological stress responses. We recommend that cows housed in tie-sheds be given regular access to an exercise area.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02661806
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Isabelle Veissier, Stéphane Andanson, Herve Dubroeucq, Dominique Pomiès. The motivation of cows to walk as thwarted by tethering. Journal of Animal Science, American Society of Animal Science, 2008, 86 (10), pp.2723-2729. ⟨10.2527/jas.2008-1020⟩. ⟨hal-02661806⟩

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