Association between prepartum feeding behavior and periparturient health disorders in dairy cows

Karen M. Luchterhand, Paula R.B. Silva, Ricardo C. Chebel, Marcia I. Endres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between prepartum feeding behavior, measured as time spent feeding per day, and periparturient health disorders, milk yield, milk composition, and milk somatic cell count in Jersey cows. Pregnant Jersey cows were marked with unique alphanumeric symbols and were moved into a prepartum group 4 weeks prior to their expected calving date. At enrollment, cows with a body condition score < 2 or > 4 or a locomotion score > 3 were not included. Time spent feeding was measured using 10-min video scan sampling for 24-h periods of 2-4 days per week of the study. A total of 925 cows were eligible for analysis. Parity was based on lactation number at the time of enrollment and classified as nulliparous (cows pregnant with their first calf), primiparous (cows pregnant with their second calf), and multiparous (lactation ≥2). Multiparous cows with two or more health disorders spent approximately 10% less time feeding prepartum than cows that did not have any health disorders. Multiparous cows subsequently diagnosed with metritis had a tendency to spend 5% less time feeding prepartum than healthy counterparts. Primiparous cows with retained placenta had a 10% reduction in feeding time compared to healthy primiparous cows. Monitoring time spent feeding prepartum by primiparous and multiparous cows, even on a limited number of days, appeared to be beneficial in predicting cows at risk for periparturient health disorders. Real-time daily feeding behavior monitoring technologies that can be used by dairy farms are now available, which might prove to be even more helpful in identifying cows at risk for periparturient cow health disorders as more data points can be recorded for each cow and compared to her own behavior or that of specific cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - Aug 22 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the owner, manager, and staff of New Sweden Dairy (Nicollet, MN, USA) for allowing us to use their facility and animals. In addition, we would like to thank A. Dresch, L. Mendonça, A. Scanavez, G. Nakagawa, H. Hooper, J. Moraes, K. Machado, T. Nishimura, and M. Ferreira (all from University of Minnesota) for their help with the on-farm data collection; M. Q. Shahid, T. Evink, M. Jorgensen, A. Adams-Progar, S. Fessenden, J. Johnson, and A. Hazel (all from University of Minnesota) for help while applying hair dye and animal recording; and A. Plumski, E. Boser, R. Johnson, A. Schwartau, K. McNab, A. Rousar, and A. Henao (all from University of Minnesota) for feeding behavior video analysis. This experiment was partially funded by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station through a Rapid Agriculture Response Fund grant and USDA-NIFA Hatch Funds.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Luchterhand, Silva, Chebel and Endres.


  • Cow behavior
  • Feeding time
  • Periparturient cow health
  • Prepartum behavior


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