Stepping behavior and muscle activity of dairy cattle standing on concrete or rubber flooring for 1 or 3 hours

Karin E. Schütz, Eranda Rajapaksha, Erin M. Mintline, Neil R. Cox, Cassandra B. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The type of flooring in dairy cattle systems influences cows' health and welfare. Although concrete is common, the use of more compressible flooring, such as rubber, is increasing. Cows prefer to stand and walk on rubber surfaces than on concrete; however, it is largely unknown how walking and standing for longer periods of time influence muscle activity and fatigue. Therefore, we used measures of behavior and muscle activity to investigate the potential benefits of providing a rubber flooring surface to dairy cattle. Sixteen lactating Holstein cows were forced to stand on either concrete or rubber flooring for 1 or 3 h in a 2 × 2 crossover design. Surface electromyograms (SEMG) and skin surface temperature were used to evaluate muscle activity, fatigue, and movement of muscle activity between the hind legs. Activity of 2 muscles, the bicep femoris and middle gluteal, was assessed during both static contractions, when cows transferred weight to each hind leg, before and after 1 and 3 h of standing, and dynamic contractions, associated with steps and with shifts in weight without steps. In addition, we evaluated stepping rate, time between each step, feeding behavior, skin surface temperature, and latency to lie down after standing. Standing duration influenced both the behavior and muscle activity of cows. Stepping rate increased with standing time for cows on both flooring types. Static muscle activity parameters of the bicep femoris muscle were higher after 3 h of standing for cows standing on both flooring types (2.3 and 3.6% increases in median amplitude and median power frequency, respectively) compared with the change after 1 h and compared with baseline values before the standing treatment. Flooring type influenced the behavior and muscle activity of the cows, particularly during the first hour of exposure; cows standing on rubber had a higher stepping rate, shorter interval between steps, and higher number of SEMG shifts (muscle activity shifts with or without visible steps) than cows on concrete. There was no difference in skin surface temperature, feeding behavior, or latency to lie down between the treatments. The results show that standing on a rubber flooring caused a different initial behavioral response compared with standing on concrete; however, possible reasons for these changes are unclear. Standing for 3 h resulted in an increase in stepping rate and in some muscle activity parameters; however, the results regarding muscle fatigue in relation to flooring type are inconclusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • behavior
  • electromyogram
  • flooring
  • muscle fatigue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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