Public Release: 

Cows: More freedom may mean less milk

BioMed Central

'Free-stall', untied cattle in small herds produce less milk than cows tied to their stalls but have a higher reproductive performance and suffer less teat injuries and metabolic diseases. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica compared performance and health within the two stall types in response to a ban on the construction of new tie-stalls.

Egil Simensen from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, worked with a team of researchers to investigate data on 812 herds of Norwegian Red cattle, 192 of which were kept in tie-stalls. He said, "Free-stall cows in smaller herds produced significantly less milk than those in tie-stalls, but more milk in larger herds. Cattle are social animals and readily form dominance hierarchies, especially at areas of access to feed, water and rest. It may be that cattle which are free to move around spend more time fighting and less time feeding in small free-stalls, particularly when the design of the stall is suboptimal."

Since 2004, all new cattle stalls built in Norway must be of the free-stall type. There has, however, been very little research on the impact of the interaction between housing system and herd size on animal welfare. Speaking about these results, Simensen said, "Performance and health is not universally better in small free-stalls than in tie-stalls. Herd size must be taken into consideration when preparing and evaluating regulations regarding housing system for dairy cows".

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Notes to Editors

1. Housing system and herd size interactions in Norwegian dairy herds; associations with performance and disease incidence
Egil Simensen, Olav Osteras, Knut Egil Boe, Camilla Kielland, Lars Erik Ruud and Geir Naess
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.actavetscand.com/imedia/6157176182963818_article.pdf?random=364327

After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.actavetscand.com/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica is an open access journal encompassing all aspects of veterinary research and medicine of domestic and wild animals. It is the official journal of the Veterinary Associations of the Nordic Countries but welcomes submissions from veterinary colleagues worldwide. Founded in 1959, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica became an online, open access publication in 2006.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

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