Evaluation of cow cleanliness and fly avoidance behaviors among cows with docked, switch-trimmed, and switch-intact tails
Tail docking has become a contentious issue in the dairy industry because of concerns related to pain and inhibition of natural fly avoidance behaviors. The TailWell Power Tail Trimmer (Shoof International LTD, Cambridge, New Zealand) is a cordless drill attachment with circular blades to trim a cows’ switch quickly and easily. The objective of this study was to evaluate cow cleanliness and fly avoidance behaviors between 64 cows trimmed with the Tailwell Power Tail Trimmer (T), 89 previously docked cows (D), and 53 cows with intact switches (S). Cow cleanliness was evaluated bi-weekly with separate scores recorded for the flank, leg, and udder using a scoring system ranging from light (L) to very heavy (VH). Individual teat scores were recorded using a scoring system ranging from 0 (no dirt) to 4 (filthy). Fly avoidance behaviors were monitored for 2 min/cow at each sampling. The MIXED procedure of SAS (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) was used to evaluate the effects of tail status, scoring period, herd, and interactions on udder, flank, leg, and teat cleanliness. Stepwise backward elimination was used to remove non-significant interactions (P≥0.05). No significant differences were observed among tail status for flank, udder, or leg scores (P ≥0.05); however, significant differences were observed for scoring period, herd, and the interaction of scoring period × herd (P < 0.05). Herd was a significant predictor of teat scores (P ≥ 0.05), however tail status was not (P ≥ 0.05). The GENMOD procedure of SAS® was used to evaluate fly avoidance behaviors. Cows with docked tails were 2.01 and 2.21 times more likely to have a higher tail swing score than cows with switch-trimmed and intact-switch tails, respectively (P < 0.01). The lack of differences among cleanliness supports existing literature suggesting that docking tails does not improve cow hygiene. The observed increase in fly avoidance behavior among docked cows suggests behavioral deprivation for these cows. The Tailwell Power Trimmer provides a way to relieve dairy worker concerns related to intact switches without the perception aspects of tail docking.
tail trimming, fly avoidance, cow hygiene