Lameness is a major welfare problem in the dairy industry. Environmental factors, such as flooring surface, as well as cow-level factors, such as udder fill, can influence gait. The aim of the current study was to test whether motivation to walk affects gait attributes and whether this effect differs between lame and sound cows. We trained cows to walk down an alley for a food reward and assessed walking speed, stride length, head bob, and back arch of cows previously identified as either lame (n = 7) or sound (n = 10). Cows were assessed when they walked toward a food reward and toward no reward. Cows walked faster and had longer stride length and less variation in head bob when approaching the reward; these effects were similar in both sound and lame cows. We concluded that motivation to walk affects several gait attributes of dairy cows.
Keywords: animal welfare; behavior; locomotion; quantitative gait assessment.
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