Abstract #M21

# M21
Metritic heifers search for a safe place.
Julia C. Lomb1, Julie M. Huzzey2, Heather W. Neave*1, Daniel M. Weary1, Bianca Costa1, Marina A. G. von Keyserlingk1, 1University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Isolation from the group is a common behavioral response to illness in social animals. Modern freestall barns do not provide a refuge area for sick cows, but animals feeling ill may be able to use the lying stall itself to get away from herd mates. First-lactation cows are smaller, and thus better able to stand with all 4 feet in a stall and benefit from its protection. The objective of this study was to determine if these cows increase standing in the stall when they develop metritis, a common uterine infection. Metritis diagnosis was based on vaginal discharge, scored on every third day between calving and 21 d in milk (DIM). First-lactation cows identified as metritic (M, n = 8) were paired with healthy individuals (H, n = 8), based on body weight and days in milk. Cows were housed in a dynamic, mixed-parity group of 20 and had access to 24 lying stalls. Cameras installed above the experimental pen allowed for 24 h of continuous observation. Time spent standing with either the 2 front feet or all 4 feet in the stall was measured using 5-min scan sampling of the video recordings. The observation period included the 3 d before diagnosis in the metritic animals and the corresponding DIM for healthy pairs. A Mixed procedure in SAS (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) was used for statistical analysis. Time standing with 4 feet in the stall was normalized using a log-transformation; values reported are back-transformed geometric means and 95% CI. Metritic heifers spent more time standing with all 4 feet in the stall (102.5, 49–214 min/d; mean, 95% CI) than the paired healthy heifers (10.5, 5–22 min/d; mean, 95%CI; P < 0.001). Differences in time spent perching with the 2 front feet in the stall were not significant (M: 209.6 ± 31; H: 284 ± 31; LS means ± SE; P > 0.1). There was no significant difference in overall time spent standing in the stall. We suggest that cows experiencing malaise with the onset of metritis spend more time standing with 4 feet in the stall because they perceive this to be a protective environment.

Key Words: sickness behavior, disease, standing behavior