The effect of food location, heat load, and intrusive medical procedures on brushing activity in dairy cows

R. Mandel*, H. R. Whay, C. J. Nicol, E. Klement

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Animals allocate time and effort to a range of core (e.g., sleeping, feeding, drinking) and "luxury" (e.g., playing, exploring) activities. A luxury activity is characterized by low resilience and, as such, will be reduced when time or energy resources are limited, including under conditions of stress or discomfort. One seemingly luxurious activity available to cows on an increasing number of dairy farms is rubbing against an automated brush. The current study examined the effect of distance from food, heat load, and an intrusive medical procedure (i.e., artificial insemination and transrectal pregnancy examination) on the resilience of brush usage. The probability of using the brush decreased significantly when food was located distantly from the brush (mean = 0.53) compared with days when food was located closer to the brush (mean = 0.81). Brush usage also decreased at high temperature and humidity levels, with an average decrease of 0.062 brushing events for an increase of 1 temperature-humidity index unit (95% confidence interval = -0.93-0.030). In addition, a significant reduction of approximately 50% in brushing activity was observed on days of artificial insemination compared with the preceding 3. d and the following 3. d. These findings show that brush usage is a low resilience activity that reduces under a range of conditions. It may thus have the potential to be used as an indicator of a range of health and welfare problems in cows. Further research should be conducted to assess the sensitivity and specificity of this suggested tool and its possible contribution to the early detection of morbidity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6506-6513
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (Hertfordshire, UK) and by the Harry and Sylvia Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel) .


  • Anhedonia
  • Mechanical brush
  • Stress
  • Welfare


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of food location, heat load, and intrusive medical procedures on brushing activity in dairy cows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this