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Automatic recording of daily walkover liveweight of dairy cattle at pasture in the first 100 days in milk

Alawneh, J.I., Stevenson, M.A., Williamson, N.B., Lopez-Villalobos, N., Otley, T.
Journal of dairy science 2011 v.94 no.9 pp. 4431-4440
autocorrelation, body weight, calving, dairy cows, dairy herds, early lactation, estrus, linear models, milking parlors, pastures, physiological state, regression analysis, New Zealand
Daily walkover liveweight (WoLW) records (n=79,697) from 463 pasture-fed dairy cows from a single dairy herd in the lower North Island of New Zealand were recorded over the first 100 d of lactation. The aims of this study were to (1) describe LW records retrieved by a standalone automatic Wo daily weighing system; (2) describe the frequency and nature of outlier LW records measured by the system and develop an approach for excluding identified outlier LW records; (3) quantify the agreement between cow LW measured using the Wo system and those measured statically; and (4) describe the autocorrelation between daily LW measurements to provide an indication of how frequently management decisions need to be reviewed to effectively monitor cow LW change in the early-lactation period. The standard deviation of daily LW measurements across parities was 17kg, on average. A near perfect association between LW measured statically and WoLW (concordance correlation coefficient 0.99, 95% CI 0.99–1.0) was observed. After controlling for the effect of LW at calving and long-term LW change using a mixed-effects linear regression model, the autocorrelation between WoLW recorded on successive days was 0.21, decaying to zero by 8 d. This study shows that by using a standalone automatic Wo weighing system positioned in the exit race of a rotary milking parlor, it was possible to record LW of individual cows on a daily basis and, with controlled cow flow over the weighing platform (allowing for sufficient succession distance to prevent congestion), results were similar to those recorded using conventional, static weighing techniques using the same scales. Based on the autocorrelation analyses, we recommend that LW are recorded on a daily basis to allow changes in physiological status such as the onset of acute illness or estrus to be detected. For managerial purposes, such as using LW change as a guide for adjusting the herd feeding program, we recommend a 7-d decision interval to effectively monitor significant changes in cows’ recorded daily LW measurements.