Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Animal Science

Major Professor

Peter D. Krawczel

Committee Members

Elizabeth A. Eckelkamp, Brian K. Whitlock


Around calving, dairy cows must cope with nutritional, physiological, and environmental stressors, which puts them at an increased risk for detrimental outcomes. Understanding dairy cows’ maternal behaviors and their preferred calving environment can aid in addressing how to properly manage and house them. The objectives were to determine (1) dairy cattle’s preference for calving environment and factors associated with their preference, (2) the herd’s location in relation to individual animals that did or did not separate from the group for calving, (3) lying behaviors at calving, (4) individual animal’s movement throughout the environment at calving, and (5) if lying behaviors and movement throughout the environment change based on calving location preference when group-housed in a bedded-pack barn with free access to pasture. The barn served as section 1, and the pasture was divided into 8 sections. Sections 2 through 8 were areas of flat, open pasture. Section 9 was surrounded by natural forage cover at the end of the pasture. Cattle most frequently selected the barn and natural forage cover area for calving. Parity and heat stress were associated with selection of calving location. When cattle separated from the herd to calve, the majority of the herd was at least 2 sections away, while cattle that did not separate to calve stayed within the same section as the majority of the herd. On the day of calving, lying time and lying bout duration decreased, and lying bouts, steps, and movement throughout the environment increased. None of these behaviors were affected by preference for calving location. These results suggest dairy cattle have different preferences at calving and will seek out an area where they have cover overhead and surrounding them. When designing calving facilities, various preferences should be considered. Furthermore, cattle’s lying behaviors and movement change leading up to calving when provided with a barn and pasture. Future research should focus on determining how to accommodate these behaviors in indoor calving facilities.

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