Living Up to Her Potential: Increasing Dairy Cow Productivity and Welfare Using an Improved Understanding of Sleep

Grants and Contracts Details


To remain sustainable, the U.S. dairy industry must adopt practices that ensure the efficiency and welfare of their animals. Dairy cows have a high potential for producing milk, yet many cows are unable to cope with intensive housing and succumb to disease, significantly reducing both productivity and welfare. Sensitive indicators of how animals cope with their environments are critically needed. High lying time is used as an indicator of good welfare, but is also associated with lameness, making it problematic as a direct measurement of welfare. A promising new method for measuring an animal’s ability to cope is to determine the amount of sleep they are able to obtain. In humans, substantial epidemiological and experimental research has determined that sleep is critical to health, as even modest declines can increase the risk of illness and mortality. No research has determined if sleep loss reduces health and productivity in cattle. Thus, the objectives of the proposed project are to determine the effect of modest sleep loss on immune function, metabolism and milk production. As this is a novel area of research and a 'proof-of-concept' approach, the project fits with the Exploratory Research Program Priority. Results will provide the foundation for large-scale studies aimed at determining the relationship between sleep and disease in cattle, as well as the effect of common management practices on sleep loss. This line of research can lead to progressive changes that will increase animal efficiency and welfare, ultimately ensuring the sustainability of the dairy industry.
Effective start/end date9/1/158/31/17


  • Ohio State University: $13,500.00


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