There is concern that cows that are continuously housed year-round may lack the opportunity to express a full range of natural behaviour. Providing these cows with a loafing or exercise area may allow them the space to express a greater behavioural repertoire. Little is known about the factors that affect the use of loafing areas. The aim of this study was to determine whether access to a view across the surroundings, dominance rank of the cow or weather conditions influence the use of a loafing area. Four groups of cows were housed in a cubicle house with an adjoining roofed, concrete floored loafing area, with a view out across adjacent fields. Each group was tested over a period of 16 days with 2 four-day periods in which the cows could see the area beyond the loafing area and two periods when they could not. The dominance rank of each cow was assessed prior to the testing period and weather and climatic conditions were recorded regularly throughout the observation period. Overall, cows spent 14% of the observation period in the loafing area. Low-ranking cows were more often in the loafing area during feeding times than high-ranking cows, with all cows using the area most once feeding was completed (P < 0.01). Access to the view did not affect the use of the loafing area. Cows tended to use the loafing area more in sunny weather than in rainy or overcast weather (P = 0.08). More cows moved outdoors as the temperature-humidity index rose indoors (P < 0.001). On sunny days, high-ranking cows were found occupying places at the edges of the loafing area, rather than central positions (P < 0.001). This suggests that a view of the surroundings has little motivational value for cows, but the loafing area might be used to avoid high-ranking animals and for thermoregulation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Loafing area