Pasture Access Affects Behavioral Indicators of Wellbeing in Dairy Cows

  • Key finding:

    Dairy cows in Europe and the United States are increasingly housed indoors year-round. Even cows with pasture access are usually kept inside during the winter and around calving. However, animal welfare scientists and dairy consumers are concerned that full-time housing impacts cattle welfare. We investigated how pasture influences behavioral indicators of wellbeing. Using activity monitor sensors, we recorded 29 animals’ lying and walking activity during 18 days of pasture access and 18 days of indoor housing. Cattle at pasture had fewer lying bouts but longer lying times, indicating they were more comfortable and less restless. Lying behavior was also more synchronous outdoors, with most of the herd lying at the same time. These results indicate pasture provides a comfortable surface and reduces competition for lying space. Furthermore, cows at pasture walked farther, with potential benefits for their physical health and psychological wellbeing. Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence that pasture access improves dairy cow welfare.

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Crump, A.1, Jenkins, K.1, Bethell, E. J.2, Ferris, C. P.3, & Arnott, G.1 (2019). Pasture Access Affects Behavioral Indicators of Wellbeing in Dairy Cows. Animals9(11), 902.

1 Institute for Global Food Security, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, 1-33 Chlorine
Gardens, Belfast BT9 5AJ, UK
2 Research Centre in Brain and Behaviour, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology,
Liverpool John Moores University, James Parsons Building, Byrom Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK
3 Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Large Park, Hillsborough BT26 6DR, UK