Effects of Season, Housing and Physiological Stage on Drinking and Other Related Behavior of Dairy Cows (Bos taurus)

  • Lainez, Marielena Moncada (Institute of Tropical Agriculture and International Cooperation) ;
  • Hsia, Liang Chou (Institute of Tropical Agriculture and International Cooperation)
  • Received : 2003.09.01
  • Accepted : 2004.01.14
  • Published : 2004.10.01


The objective of the paper was to study the drinking and other related behavior of dairy cows (Bos taurus). There were 142 Holstein dairy cows observed and compared in this study. The experiment was designed on the basis of two different housing systems (wet pad with forced ventilation cooling house and open house); two different seasons (winter and summer); four different stages (high milk yielding cows, low milk yielding cows, dry cows, and heifers); and grouping (home and visitor animals). All cows had free access to water. Dairy cows spent 13.8 min/day drinking in wet-pad house and 11.7 min/day in open house. owever, there was no significant difference in the duration of water drinking between these two housing systems (p>0.05). The water consumption was significantly higher in wet-pad housed animals (68 L/day) than open-housed animals (31.5 L/day) (p<0.05). A significant interaction between housing and grouping (p<0.05) was found. Home and visitor animals spent more time drinking in open house, wet-pad house, respectively. A highly significant interaction was found between housing and drinking time during the day (p<0.001). Animals in open house drank more during the morning (6:00 to 10:00 h), whereas wet-pad housed animals drank in the afternoon (14:00 to 15:00 h) and evening (18:00 to 20:00 h). The average time a cow spent in drinking in summer was not ignificantly different from that of drinking in winter. However, the water intake was significantly higher in summer (61.9 L/day) than in winter (38.6 L/day) (p<0.05). Drinking activity showed a highly significant interaction between season and physiological stage (p<0.01). High milk yield cows spent more time drinking in summer than in winter, whereas cows in all other stages followed the opposite drinking pattern. Grouping exchange did not influence the drinking behavior of dairy cows in either season (p>0.05); both home and visitor animals spent almost the same time in drinking water. A strong significant interaction between season and time during the day was found(p<0.01), suggesting that animal's high drinking frequency occurred during the daytime for both seasons, with a peak midday in winter and two peaks at 10:00 h in the morning and 19:00 h in summer. Thus, drinking behavior was associated with the cooler time of day in summer and with the warmer hours of day in winter. High and low milk yielding cows and heifers spent 15.3 min/day, 14.3 min/day, and 12.8 min/day, respectively, in water drinking activity, but there was no significant difference among them (p>0.05). There was, however, a significant difference in water drinking activity found in dry cows, which spent less time in drinking at 8.2 min/day (p<0.05).


Drinking Behavior;Dairy Cows;Season;Housing System;Physiological Stages


  1. Andersson, M. 1987. Effects of number and location of water bowls and social rank on drinking behavior and performance of loose-housed dairy cows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 17:19-31.
  2. Castle, M. E. and T. P. Thomas. 1975. The water intake of British Friesian cows on rations containing various forages. Anim. Prod. 20:181-189.
  3. Church, D. C. 1974. Water metabolism and requirements in: Digestive physiology and nutrition of ruminants. Vol. II. O & B books. Corvallis, Oregon, USA. pp. 401-411.
  4. Friend, T. H. and C. E. Polan. 1974. Social rank, feeding behavior, and free stall utilization by dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 57:1214-1222.
  5. Hoffman, M. P. and H. L. Self. 1972. Factors affecting water consumption by feedlot cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 35:871-876.
  6. Mullick, D. N., V. N. Murty and N. D. Kehar. 1952. Seasonal variations in the feed and water intake of cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 11:42.
  7. National Research Council. 2001. Nutrient requirements of dairy cattle. 7th rev. ed. National Academy Press. Washington, DC. USA. p. 381.
  8. Phillips, C. J. C. 2002. Cattle Behavior and Welfare. Second edition. Blackwell publishing. United Kingdom. p. 263.
  9. Stockdale, C. R. and K. R. King. 1983. A note in some of the factors that affect the water consumption of lactating dairy cows at pasture. Anim. Prod. 36:303-306.
  10. Winchester, C. F. and M. J. Morris. 1956. Water intake rates of cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 15:722.
  11. Andersson, M. 1985. Effect of drinking water temperatures on water intake and milk yield of tied-up dairy cows. Livest. Prod. Sci. 12:329-338.
  12. Chesworth, J. 1992. Water in: Ruminant Nutrition. The McMillan Press Ltd., London, England. pp. 18-24.
  13. Young, B. A. 1983. Ruminant cold stress: Effect on production. J. Anim. Sci. 57:1601-1607.
  14. Hsia, L. C. 2001. Dairy cattle management by automatic facilities. The 9th dairy seminar among Japan, Korea and Taiwan. pp. 53-58.
  15. Krohn, C. C., L. Munksgaard and B. Jonasen. 1992. Behavior of dairy cows kept in extensive (loose housing/pasture) or intensive (tie stall) environments. 1. Experimental procedure, facilities, time budgets-diurnal and seasonal conditions. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 34:37-47.
  16. Lanham, J. K., C. E. Coppock, K. Z. Milam, J. M. Labore, D. H. Nave, R. A. Stermer and C. F. Brasington. 1986. Effects of drinking water temperature on physiological responses of lactating Holstein cows in summer. J. Dairy Sci. 69:1004-1012.
  17. Redbo, I., A. Ehrlemark and P. Redbo-Torstensson. 2001. Behavioral responses to climatic demand of dairy heifers housed outdoors. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 81:9-15.
  18. Andersson, M., J. Schaar and H. Wiktorsson. 1984. Effects of drinking water flow rates and social rank on performance and drinking behavior of tied-up dairy cows. Livest. Prod. Sci. 11:599-610.
  19. Brakel, W. J. and C. Leis. 1976. Impact of social disorganization on behavior, milk yield, and body weight of dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 59:716-721.
  20. Rossi, R., E. Del Petre, J. Rokitzky and E. Scharrer. 1999. Circadian drinking during ad libitum and restricted feeding in pygmy goats. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 61:253-261.
  21. Church, D. C. and W. G. Pond. 1982. Water in: Basic Animal Nutrition and Feeding. Second edition by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. United States of America. pp. 50-58.
  22. SAS. 2000. SAS/STAT User’s Guide. SAS Institute, Cary, NC.
  23. Albright, J. L. and C. W. Arave. 1997. The Behaviors of Cattle. CAB International. United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge. p. 306.
  24. Phillips, C. J. C. 2001. Principles of cattle production. CABI Publishing. United Kingdom. p. 278.
  25. Yoon, J. T., J. H. Lee, C. K. Kim, Y. C. Chung and C. H. Kim. 2004. Effects of milk production, season, parity and lactation period on variations of milk urea nitrogen concentration and milk components of Holstein dairy cows. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci. 17 (4):479-484.
  26. Hsia, L. C. 2002. How to release heat stress from dairy cattle. International training on strategies for reducing heat stress in dairy cattle. Taiwan Livestock Research Institute, ROC. pp. 128-140.
  27. Little, W. and S. R. Shaw. 1978. A note in the individuality of the intake of drinking water by dairy cows. Anim. Prod. 26:225-227.
  28. Maltz, E., N. Silanikove, U. Shalit and A. Berman. 1994. Diurnal fluctuations in plasma ions and water intake of dairy cows affected by lactation in warm weather. J. Dairy Sci. 77:2630-2639.
  29. Murphy, M. R. 1992. Water metabolism of dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 75:326-333.
  30. Fraser, A. F. and D. M. Broom. 2002. Farm Animal Behavior and Welfare. Third edition. CABI Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 437.
  31. Grant, R. J. and J. L. Albright. 2001. Effect of animal grouping on feeding behavior and intake of dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 84:156-163 (suppl.).
  32. Phillips, C. J. C. and M. I. Rind. 2001. The effects on production and behavior of mixing uniparous and multiparous cows. J. Dairy Sci. 84:2424-2429.
  33. Phillips, C. J. C. 1993. Cattle Behavior. Farming Press Books. United Kingdom. p. 212.
  34. Friend, T. H. and C. E. Polan. 1973. Effects of social rank on feeding behavior and free stall utilization by cows. J. Dairy Sci. 56:668.
  35. Hasegawa, N., A. Nishiwaki, K. Sugawara and I. Ito. 1997. The effect of social exchange between two groups of lactating primiparous heifers on milk production, dominance order, behavior and adrenocortical response. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 51:15-27.
  36. Nielsen, L. H., L. Mogensen, C. Krohn, J. Hindhede and J. T. Sorensen. 1997. Resting and social behavior of dairy heifers housed in slatted floor pens with different sized bedded lying areas. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 54:307-316.
  37. Alhassan, W. S. and J. D. Kabuga. 1988. Dry and wet seasonal studies on the grazing behavior of native N'dama and imported Friesian bulls in a humid tropical environment. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 19:245-254.
  38. Murphy, M. R., C. L. David and G. C. McCoy. 1983. Factors affecting water consumption by Holstein cows in early lactation. J. Dairy Sci. 66:35-38.
  39. Ray, D. E. and C. B. Roubicek. 1971. Behavior of feedlot cattle during two seasons. J. Anim. Sci. 33:72-76.
  40. Chen, K. H., J. T. Huber, C. B. Theurer, D. V. Armstrong, R. C. Wanderley, J. M. Simas, S. C. Chan and J. L. Sullivan. 1993. Effect of protein quality and evaporative cooling on lactational performance of Holstein cows in hot weather. J. Dairy Sci. 76:819.
  41. Wierenga, H. K. and H. Hopster. 1990. The significance of cubicles for the behavior of dairy cows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 26:309-337.
  42. Ali, S., L. A. Goonewardene and J. A. Basarb. 1994. Estimating water consumption and factors affecting intake in grazing cattle. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 74:551-554.
  43. Holter, J. B. and W. E. Urban. 1992. Water portioning and intake in dry and lactating Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 75:1472-1479.
  44. Sekine, J. and Y. Asahida. 1987. A note on the effect of the dry matter concentration in forages on water consumption of yearling steers. Anim. Prod. 45:527-529.
  45. Haley, D. B., J. Rushen and A. M. de Pasillé. 2000. Behavioral indicators of comfort: activity and resting behavior of dairy cows in two types of housing. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 80:257-263.
  46. Tennenssen, T., M. A. Price and R. T. Berg. 1985. The social interactions of young bulls and steers after re-grouping. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 14:37-47.
  47. Wierenga, H. K. 1990. Social dominance in dairy cattle and the influences of housing and management. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 27:201-229.

Cited by

  1. Effect of Different Stocking Density on Eating Behavior of Hanwoo Steers (Bos taurus coreanae) During Growing Period vol.53, pp.5, 2011,
  2. Effect of Stocking Density on Eating Behavior of Finishing Hanwoo Steers (Bos taurus coreanae) vol.32, pp.4, 2012,
  3. Drinking frequency effects on the performance of cattle: a systematic review vol.101, pp.6, 2016,
  4. Effects of Pregnancy Stage on Eating Behaviors of Hanwoo Heifers (Bos taurus coreanae) vol.36, pp.1, 2016,