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The objective of the present study was to assess the effect of parturition on behavioral activity [steps, standing time, lying time, lying bouts (LB), and duration of LB] 4 d before calving using electronic data loggers. Animals (n = 132) from 3 herds were housed in similar freestall barns using a prepartum pen 21 d before the expected calving date and were moved into a contiguous individual maternity pen for parturition. Electronic data loggers were placed on a hind leg of prepartum heifers (heifers, n = 33) and cows (cows, n = 99) at 7 ± 3 d before the expected calving date and removed at 14 ± 3 d in milk. Calving ease (scale 1–4), parity, calving date and time, and stillbirth (born dead or died within 24 h) were recorded. The number of steps (no./d), standing time (min/d), lying time (min/d), number of LB (no./d), and duration of LB (min/b) were recorded. Data were analyzed using MIXED procedures of SAS, adjusting for the herd effect. Only cows experiencing unassisted births (calving ease = 1) were included in the study. An activity index was developed to predict calving time. Heifers and cows with unassisted births had significantly higher number of steps and longer standing time, decreased lying time, and more LB of shorter duration 24 h before calving compared with d −4, −3, and −2. Additionally, the number of LB increased as both heifers and cows approached labor starting on d −2 and peaked at the day of calving. The time since the activity index increased over 50% to parturition did not differ between heifers and cows, and the activity index revealed the shift in activity on average 6 h 14 min (range from 2 h to 14 h 15 min) before calf birth. This study provided evidence that heifers and cows approaching parturition showed a similar, but distinct, behavioral pattern that can be observed on average 6 h before calf birth. The potential benefits of electronic data loggers as predictors of parturition along with proactive management practices should improve the overall survival and welfare of both the dam and calf.


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