Buffalo behavioural response to machine milking in early lactation

Italian Journal of Animal Science. 2010;7(3):287-296 DOI 10.4081/ijas.2008.287


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Journal Title: Italian Journal of Animal Science

ISSN: 1594-4077 (Print); 1828-051X (Online)

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group

Society/Institution: Associazione Scientifica di Produzione Animale (ASPA)

LCC Subject Category: Agriculture: Animal culture

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Elisabetta Canali

Michela Minero

Maria Concetta Campagna

Cristina Roncoroni

Roberta Cavallina


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 10 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Buffalo farming in Italy is traditionally oriented towards mozzarella cheese production and over the last decade it has been rapidly increased. As a result, intensive techniques and mechanisation of farm activities have been introduced. Those sudden changes in rearing techniques have aroused a general concern about buffaloes welfare and its possible consequences on products quality.Human-animal interactions are recognized to have an impact on productivity, behaviour and welfare, particularly in dairy farms, where the milking process involves a close interaction with a human handler. Focusing on the first month of lactation, this preliminary study aimed at evidencing buffalo behavioural responses to machine milking. Relationship between behaviour and oxytocin administrations, often performed to allow milk let down, has been also investigated. The experiment included 8 multiparous and 6 primiparous buffaloes, calving in the same period. Starting from the first entrance in the milking parlour, the animals were followed two days/ week during the morning milking for the first 5 weeks of lactation. Behaviour observation was performed following a &ldquo;focal animal sampling&rdquo; (continuous recording) technique. Proportional frequencies of the following behaviours were calculated: kicking, stepping, defecating, urinating, vocalizing, pulling the teat cup off the teats. The exogenous oxytocin administration at milking was recorded. Pearson Chi-Square test was used to verify the presence of differences between primiparous and multiparous cows&rsquo; behaviour at milking. Cochran&rsquo;s Q test was used to assess the variability of behaviour over time and a binomial regression was performed in order to verify the correlations between animal behaviours and the need to administer oxytocin. Considering lactation number, every behavioural pattern in primiparous cows, except for stepping, resulted to be more frequently performed (36.67% vs 24.36% for kicking; 5% vs 2.56% for defecating; 11.67% vs 5.13% for pulling the teat cup off the teats).The behaviour of urinating (48.33% vs 11.54%) proved to have a significantly higher mean frequency of occurrence compared to the multiparous one (P<0.001). The frequency of oxytocin administration showed a high variability over time (P<0.001), soon decreasing, while the selected behaviours proved to be more stable in time, except for kicking and urinating (P<0.05). Some correlations between animal behaviour at milking and oxytocin administration were found; particularly kicking, stepping and urinating appeared to be significantly related to the requirement of exogenous molecule (P<0.001). The occurrence of behaviours considered as indicators of acute stress and their correlation with oxytocin administration are a clear proof of the machine milking impact on buffaloes welfare and productivity.