The reliability of rumination data recorded by a commercial rumination monitor.

The reliability of a commercial on-farm rumination monitor was evaluated by comparing it with an automatic jaw movement recorder.

Year of Publication2011

On-farm recording of rumination behaviour has the potential to contribute towards oestrus detection as well as in monitoring health and welfare status, and commercial rumination monitors have been developed with these aims. These devices also have the potential to be used for scientific studies if they provide a reliable method of recording rumination. The reliability of a commercial on-farm rumination monitor (Fabdec Heatime Vocal) (H) was evaluated by comparing it with an automatic jaw movement recorder (IGER Behaviour Recorder) (I). Concurrent 24 hr H and I recordings from three lactating Holstein-Friesian dairy cows collected on two separate occasions were analysed. Data were analysed as minutes ruminating per two hour period (the output format of H), and I data were taken as definitive, as the validation of I has been published. Two measures of rumination by H and I were compared: the total time spent ruminating over a 22 or 24 hr period, and the correlation between minutes ruminating per two-hour period. H consistently underestimated total time spent ruminating. For cow 1, H underestimated total time spent ruminating by 11% and 9% on the first and second occasions. For cow 2, the underestimates were 4% and 3%, and they were 37% and 30% for cow 3. For cow 1, there was a very strong correlation in minutes ruminating per 2 hrs between I and H, with correlation coefficients (r) of+0.90 and +0.96 (n=11) on the first and second occasion respectively. For cow 2, there was a moderate correlation (r=+0.57 and +0.54, n=11). For cow 3, there was a very weak correlation on the first occasion (r=+0.15, n=11). Although there was a strong correlation on the second occasion (r=+0.88, n=11). The slopes of all the lines fitted between I and H rumination data were less than 1.0, indicating that H tended to over-estimate ruminating periods where there was little ruminating, and underestimated ruminating in periods where there was a lot. Although the consistencies in some aspects of the data recorded with cows 1 and 2 show the potential of H in scientific studies, the inconsistencies observed with cow 3 indicated the need for further research. In conclusion, although showing potential, further research is needed before the Fabdec Heatime collars can be used to reliably record rumination as part of scientific research projects.

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