AgResearch has been using sensor devices on cows while they hit the hay to reveal their sleep stages.
“There’s been a little bit of research into cows and their sleep, but generally we don’t know a whole lot about how much sleep they need and how important it is for their wellbeing,” researcher Laura Hunter told 1 NEWS.
“We can actually use these tools to study their sleep accurately and we’ve seen some pretty interesting sleep patterns. They tend to have a nap in the morning, and then they’ll get most of their sleep at night.”
Manawatū dairy farmer Hayley Hoogendyk said the more information about a cow’s welfare and sleep, the better.
“It’s all valuable information. They can’t talk to us, they can’t tell us what they need. If there’s information that can help us improve how we manage them, we’ll take full advantage of that and do what’s best for the cow.”
She compared her cows to elite athletes, needing the best conditions possible in order to perform at their best.
“You do all this breeding to get the best cow possible, but then you also have to give them the opportunity to perform at their best. When you get tired, it’s really hard to perform. And that’s the same for cows,” she said.
AgResearch’s animal behaviour and welfare science team leader, Cheryl O’Connor, said this new research will help farmers understand whether or not they need to adjust their practices to ensure the cows are getting the best possible care.
“[Sleep] certainly is really important for health and restorative functions,” she told 1 NEWS.
“We can now have the ability to start asking those questions – how are cows sleeping when they’re out on the paddock? What are the situations we put them in that might actually affect their sleep? And is that actually affecting their health and wellbeing?”
The researchers hope this method of monitoring sleep will be used on all farm animals in the future.