Cows are creatures of habit. Inconsistencies in their daily schedules are bound to cause stress.
Like humans, cows are exposed to stressors every day. The chronic effects of built-up stress may lead to negative metabolic changes in the cow and can have significant effects on their health and productivity.
In a conventionally managed dairy, consistency is usually applied only to feeding schedule, milking times and the overall milking routine. But an inconsistent daily routine should expand well outside the milking parlor into the pens. Cows spend most of their day in their pen and the effect of inconsistencies throughout the day can have a significant economic and comfort level toll on the herd over time.
The Daily Routine graph is an effective tool to assess the consistency of the cows’ daily routine. The graph displays 48-hour real-time activity or rumination levels for the group and enables their comparison between the pen’s two-week average activity/rumination levels. The graph also displays the variation from the two-week average.
A comparison between two farms offers quick insight into the differences in daily routines:
Farm 1 Daily routine, activity. Real-time pen activity levels can be compared with two-week average pen activity levels. Notice that the two-week variance in pen activity is showing a tight pattern. Cows in this pen enjoy a consistent daily routine.
Farm 2 Daily routine, activity. Notice that the two-week pen activity is showing a level of variance. Real-time routine also deviates significantly from the two week average. This farm does not maintain a highly consistent routine.
Farm 1 Daily routine, rumination. Notice that cows have been milked at almost the exact time today as in the past two weeks. Night rumination levels are very high and rumination levels are within the two-week variance boundaries. Cows in this pen enjoy a consistent daily routine.
Farm 2 Daily routine, rumination. Graph shows that cows do not get milked nor return to their pen to eat at the same time each day. Real-time rumination levels reach the variance boundaries and exceed them. This pen’s routine is inconsistent.
It’s clear that Farm 2 is not maintaining a consistent daily routine.
To address this, Farm 2 management would need to examine herd management routines. The evaluation process would begin with strictly adhering to a timely milking schedule. This move would effectively structure the pen’s schedule and allow a closer look at the causes of inconsistent routines, implementing alternative routines and monitoring their effect.
The ability to measure cow behavior allows the identification that a problem exists. The correct identification of a problem is the first step in solving it.