Collaborations are a natural part of scientific research, leading to a sharing of knowledge, the development of new ideas, and the forming of new relationships. The team at CowLifeMcGill has played host to a number of international students, including a few from the CASE research team at ISA-Lille in France. This summer, it was ISA’s turn to play host as they welcome PhD candidate, Elise Shepley, to their lab.
In collaboration with the CASE team, Elise researched the effect of the type of loose-housing system (strawyard vs. free-stall) on dairy cow behavior and step activity. The study took place in both the winter and summer, with winter data collection already successfully carried out by the CASE research team, to determine if season and, more importantly, providing outdoor access has a positive effect of overall step activity and behavior in dairy cows
This project is a part of a larger PhD focus investigating exercise in dairy cattle. Research has shown many benefits of providing exercise to dairy cows; however, much of the previous research has focused on pasture housing and our understanding regarding the amount of exercise opportunity provided by other housing types is limited. There is much to be learned with regard to the indoor housing environment on the dairy cow’s ability to move freely and exhibit normal behavior. The study carried out in France looked to see if all indoor loose-housing is created equally or if, indeed, a deeper look into housing structure is necessary to improve the amount of total exercise the cow has the opportunity to obtain in her given environment. This information will help us provide producers with better recommendations on housing as it relates to exercise and cow health and welfare as a whole.
This study and the wonderful experiences abroad are now completed! Be sure to keep up with the research at CowLifeMcGill to see updates on the findings for this study and our other ongoing research studies!