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Grimm, Katharina; Haidn, Bernhard; Erhard, Michael; Tremblay, Marlene and Doepfer, Doerte (2019): New insights into the association between lameness, behavior, and performance in Simmental cows. In: Journal of Dairy Science, Vol. 102, No. 3: pp. 2453-2468

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In a herd of 100 milking Simmental cows, data of performance and behavior parameters were collected automatically with different systems such as pedometers, an automatic milking system, and automatic weighing troughs for 1 yr. Performance measures were several milking-related parameters, live weight, as well as feed intake. Behavior-associated measures were feeding behavior (e.g. feeding duration, number of visits to the trough, and feeding pace) as well as activity such as lying duration, number of lying bouts, and overall activity. In the same time, lameness status of every cow was assessed with weekly locomotion scoring. According to the score animals were then classified lame (score 4 or 5) or nonlame (score 1, 2, or 3). From these data in total, 25 parameters summarized to daily values were evaluated for their ability to determine the lameness status of a cow. Data were analyzed with a regularized regression method called elastic net with the outcome lame or nonlame. The final model had a high prediction accuracy with an area under the curve of 0.91 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.88-0.94]. Specificity was 0.81 (95% CI = 0.73-0.85) and sensitivity was 0.94 (95% CI = 0.88-1.00). The most important factors associated with a cow being lame were number of meals, average feed intake per meal, and average duration of a meal. Lame cows fed in fewer and shorter meals with a decreased intake per meal. Milk yield and lying-behavior-associated parameters were relevant in the model, too, but only as parts of interaction terms demonstrating their strong dependence on other factors. A higher milk yield only resulted in higher risk of being lame if feed intake was decreased. The same accounts for lying duration: only if lying time was below the 50% quantile did an increased milk yield result in a higher risk of being lame. The association of lameness and daily lying duration was influenced by daily feeding duration and feeding duration at daytime. The results of the study give deeper insights on how the association between behavior and performance parameters and lameness is influenced by intrinsic factors in particular and that many of these have to be considered when trying to predict lameness based on such data. The findings lead to a better understanding why, for instance, lying duration or milk yield seem to be highly correlated with lameness in cows but still have not been overly useful as parameters in other lameness detection models.

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