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Studies on step–kick behavior and stress of cows during milking in an automatic milking system

Wenzel, C., Schönreiter-Fischer, S., Unshelm, J.
Livestock production science 2003 v.83 no.2-3 pp. 237-246
circadian rhythm, cortisol, cows, heart rate, herds, livestock production, milk, milking, milking parlors, statistical analysis, stress response
The objective of the present study was to examine the behavior and stress response of cows during milking in an automatic milking system compared to those milked in a milking parlor. Three parameters-step–kick behavior, milk cortisol concentration and heart-rate—were measured simultaneously. Investigations were carried out on 39 cows milked automatically (experimental group) and 15 cows milked twice daily in a double-sided parlor (control group). All cows were chosen randomly out of their herds. Data collecting was done either in the morning or afternoon due to the circadian rhythm of cortisol. Statistical analysis was performed with parametric tests. Step behavior occurred significantly more often in the milking stall of the automatic milking system than in the milking parlor. The heart-rate of cows milked automatically rose significantly between minute 5 and minute 1 prior to entrance into the milking stall. The mean milk cortisol concentration of cows milked in the automatic milking system was considerably higher than that of the control cows milked in the parlor. The results show a difference in behavioral and physiological condition between cows milked in an automatic milking system and in a milking parlor. Reasons for this have not yet been identified. Further studies could pay particular attention to differences in the two milking systems.