Relationship between metabolic status and behavior in dairy cows in week 4 of lactation

RJ van Hoeij, A Kok, RM Bruckmaier, MJ Haskell, B Kemp, ATM van Knegsel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Blood metabolite and hormone concentrations are indicative of metabolic status, but blood sampling and analysis is invasive and time-consuming. Monitoring behavior can be done automatically, and behaviors may also be used as indicators of metabolic status. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationships between metabolic status and feeding behavior, lying behavior, motion index and steps of dairy cows in week 4 postpartum. Behavioral data from 81 Holstein-Friesian cows were collected using computerized feeders and accelerometers, and blood samples were collected for analysis of free-fatty acid (FFA), β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), glucose, insulin, IGF-1 and growth hormone (GH) concentrations. First, cluster analysis was performed to categorize cows as having poor, average, good or very good metabolic status based on their plasma FFA, BHB, glucose, insulin, IGF-1 and GH concentration. Subsequently, the performance and behavior of cows in clusters with poor, average and good metabolic status were compared using GLM. Cows with a poor or average metabolic status tended to have greater fatand- protein-corrected milk yield than cows with good metabolic status. Furthermore, cows with a poor metabolic status had a lower energy balance and dry matter intake (DMI) than cows with an average or good metabolic status and had a lower number of meals than cows with good metabolic status. Daily number of visits to the feeder and lying time tended to be positively related with metabolic status. Feeding rate (kg/min), daily meal time (min/day), number of lying bouts per day, steps and motion index were not related with metabolic status. In conclusion, better metabolic status in dairy cows in early lactation was associated with a greater DMI, increased feeding activity and a tendency to more time spent lying, compared with poor metabolic status. These results suggest that compromised metabolic status is reflected in altered cow’s behavior in week 4 of lactation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-648
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jul 2018
Publication statusFirst published - 26 Jul 2018


  • Continuous milking
  • Dry period length
  • Feeding behaviour
  • Lactogenic hormones
  • Sensor technology


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