Mechanical brushes are commonly installed in dairy cow stalls and previous research indicates that they affect the cows positively. The physiological effects that brush use may have on cows are yet not known. The aim of this study was to investigate possible physiological effects on cardiac activity and to see if the brush could have a calming or buffering effect when the cows were exposed to a stressor. Twelve non-lactating dairy cows were subjected to four different treatments, of which three involved giving the cows a mild stressor. The stressor, a one minute restraint in a halter, was applied either before or after brush use or when there was no access to the brush. In the forth treatment, the cow would brush without being exposed to a stressor. Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) were measured before, during and after brush use, using a Televet 100 HR monitor. Significant increases in HR were seen during the first minute of brush use in three brush treatment comparisons and also when the cows were exposed to the stressor without brush use as well as after brush use. Regarding HRV, there were no significant differences. In conclusion, the expected calming and buffering effects, when the cows were stressed before and after brush use, were not seen. Stress and positive arousal may have similar effects on HR but HRV could not be used to distinguish between these emotions, wherefore deeper analyses of HRV are suggested to investigate the effect further.
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Last updated: 06/23/16