Skip to main content Accessibility help

Milking behaviour of buffalo cows: entrance order and side preference in the milking parlour

  • Annemari Polikarpus (a1), Fernando Grasso (a2), Corrado Pacelli (a3), Fabio Napolitano (a3) and Giuseppe De Rosa (a2)...

On two farms, three milking groups of buffalo cows were used to assess the consistency of entrance order and the preference for one side of the milking parlour. On Farm 1 (F1) all animals were primiparous (n=57). On Farm 2, three primiparous, 16 secondiparous and 36 multiparous cows (range 1–8) constituted group F2G1; whereas group F2G2 had 12 primiparous, 10 secondiparous and 14 multiparous cows (range 1–10). Animals were milked in auto-tandem milking parlours (2×5 and 2×6 for Farms 1 and 2, respectively). For each cow, entrance order into milking parlour, side where she was milked, milk yield, time and duration of milking were recorded. These data were derived from the computerised identification of cows. The sequence in which the cows entered the milking parlour ranged from 1 to 57 for group F1, from 1 to 55 for group F2G1 and from 1 to 36 for group F2G2. The analysis of data was conducted on 130, 120 and 92 consecutive milkings for groups F1, F2G1 and F2G2, respectively. Kendall's coefficients of concordance showed a strong constancy of the entrance order into milking parlour for groups F1 (W=0·658; χ2=4792·81; P<0·001), F2G1 (W=0·779; χ2=5046·81; P<0·001) and F2G2 (W=0·624; χ2=2030·48; P<0·001). Spearman rank correlation coefficients indicated that the more productive cows in groups F1 and F2G1 tended to enter the milking parlour first (r s=−0·221 and r s=−0·215; P<0·10; respectively). In group F2G1, a negative correlation was found between duration of milking and order of entry in the milking parlour (r s=−0·265; P<0·05). Animals in group F2G2 (r s=0·334; P<0·05) with higher days in milk entered the milking parlour latterly. In all three groups, 68 cows (45·9%) preferred the right side of the milking parlour, 73 the left side (49·3%) and the remaining seven (4·8%) showed no preference. Finally, negative correlations were found between mean entrance order and parity for both groups of Farm 2 (r s=−0·319; P<0·05 and r s=−0·325; P<0·05 for F2G1 and F2G2, respectively). As buffaloes showed higher entrance order consistency and side preference than other domestic ruminants, it is concluded that management practices that disturb their choice should be avoided in order to minimise stress during farming routines.

Corresponding author
* For correspondence; e-mail:
Hide All
Berry, DP & McCarthy, J 2012 Genetic and non-genetic factors associated with milking order in lactating dairy cows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 136 1519
Borghese, A, Rasmussen, M & Thomas, CS 2007 Milking management of dairy buffalo. Italian Journal of Animal Science 6 3950
Dawkins, MS 1983 Battery hens name their price: consumer demand theory and the measurement of ethological ‘needs’. Animal Behaviour 31 11951205
Dawkins, MS 1990 From an animal's point of view: motivation, fitness and animal welfare. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 161
De Rosa, G, Napolitano, F, Grasso, F, Pacelli, C & Brodi, A 2005 On the development of a monitoring scheme of buffalo welfare at farm level. Italian Journal of Animal Science 4 115125
De Rosa, G, Grasso, F, Pacelli, C, Napolitano, F & Winckler, C 2009 The welfare of dairy buffalo. Italian Journal of Animal Science 8 103116
Flower, FC, Sanderson, DJ & Weary, DM 2006 Effects of milking on dairy cow gait. Journal of Dairy Science 89 20842089
Gadbury, JC 1975 Some preliminary field observations on the order of entry of cows into herringbone parlours. Applied Animal Ethology 1 275281
Grasso, F, De Rosa, G, Napolitano, F, Di Francia, A & Bordi, A 2007 Entrance order and side preference of dairy cows in the milking parlour. Italian Journal of Animal Science 6 187194
Gόrecki, MT & Wόjtowski, J 2004 Stability of milking order in goat over a long period (short communication). Archiv Tierzucht 47 203208
Hopster, H, van der Werf, JTN & Blokhuis, HJ 1998 Side preference of dairy cows in the milking parlour and its effects on behaviour and heart rate during milking. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 55 213229
Hughes, BO & Duncan, IJH 1988 The notion of ethological ‘need’, models of motivation and animal welfare. Animal Behaviour 36 16961707
Jensen, P & Toates, FM 1993 Who needs ‘behavioural needs’? Motivational aspects of the needs of animals. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 37 161181
Komárková, M & Bartošová, J 2013 Lateralized suckling in domestic horses (Equus caballus). Animal Cognition 16 343349
Margetínová, J, Brouček, J, Apolen, D & Mihina, Š 2003 Relationship between age, milk production and order of goats during automatic milking. Czech Journal of Animal Science 48 257264
Melin, M, Hermans, GGN, Petterson, G & Wiktorsson, H 2006 Cow traffic in social rank and motivation of cows in an automatic milking system with control gates and open waiting area. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 96 201214
Munksgaard, L, De Passillé, AM, Rushen, J, Herskin, MS & Kristensen, AM 2001 Dairy cows’ fear of people: social learning, milk yield and behaviour at milking. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73 1526
Napolitano, F, Knierim, U, Grasso, F & De Rosa, G 2009 Positive indicators of cattle welfare and their applicability to on-farm protocols. Italian Journal of Animal Science 8 355365
Neglia, G, Saltalamacchia, F, Thomas, CS & Rasmussen, MD 2008 Milking management of dairy buffaloes. Milking routines. Bulletin of the International Dairy Federation 426/2008 6983
Paranhos da Costa, MJR & Broom, DM 2001 Consistency of side choice in the milking parlour by Holstein-Friesian cows and its relationship with their reactivity and milk yield. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 70 177186
Phillips, CJC, Llewellyn, S & Claudia, A 2003 Laterality in bovine behavior in an extensive partially suckled herd and an intensive dairy herd. Journal of Dairy Science 86 31673173
Prelle, I, Phillips, CJC, Paranhos da Costa, MJ, Vandenberghe, NC & Broom, DM 2004 Are cows that consistently enter the same side of a two-sided milking parlour more fearful of novel situations or more competitive? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 87 193203
Polikarpus, A, Kaart, T, Kokin, E, Veermäe, I & Poikalainen, V 2011 Automating monitoring of milking order in a large loose housing cowshed. In XVth ISAH Congress 2011 Proceedings, pp. 329332
Rathore, AK 1982 Order of cow entry at milking and its relationships with milk yield and consistency of the order. Applied Animal Ethology 8 4552
Reinhardt, V 1973 Beitr age zur sozialen Rangordnung und Melkordnung bei Kuhen. Z Tierpsychol 32 281292
Robins, A & Phillips, C 2010 Lateralized visual processing in domestic cattle herds responding to novel and familiar stimuli. Laterality 15 514534
Rushen, J, Munksgaard, L, Marnet, PG & De Passillé, AM 2001 Human contact and the effects of acute stress on cows at milking. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73 114
Saltalamacchia, F, Tripaldi, C, Castellano, A, Napolitano, F, Musto, M & De Rosa, G 2007 Human and animal behaviour in dairy buffalo at milking. Animal Welfare 16 139142
Siegel, S 1956 Nonparametric Statistics: for the Behavioural Sciences, p. 312. New York, USA: McGraw-Hill Book Company
Thomas, CS 2004 Milking management of dairy buffaloes. Doctoral Thesis. Uppsala: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Thomas, CS, Svennersten-Sjaunja, K, Bhosrekar, MR & Bruckmaier, RM 2004 Mammary cisternal size, cisternal milk and milk ejection in Murrah buffaloes. Journal of Dairy Research 71 162168
Versace, E, Morgante, M, Pulina, G & Vallortigara, G 2007 Behavioural lateralization in sheep (Ovis aries). Behavioural Brain Research 184 7280
Villagra, A, Balasch, S, Peris, C, Torres, A & Fernandez, N 2007 Order of sheep entry into the milking parlour and its relationship with their milkability. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 108 5867
Wasilewski, A 1999 Demonstration and verification of a milking order in dairy sheep and its extent and consistency. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 64 111124
Willems, AER & Lampo, P 1964 Milking order in cattle. Vlaams diergeneesh Tijdsschr 33 7582
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Dairy Research
  • ISSN: 0022-0299
  • EISSN: 1469-7629
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-dairy-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed