These are dairy cows that are provided access to a bark mulch pack outside of the barn for the first time in their life. Cows often show similar play behaviours when provided (first time) access to pasture.
The cows in this movie were part of a trial that investigated the preference of dairy cows to be in a free stall versus an outdoor pack. Studies have shown that cows have a partial preference to be on pasture; especially during the summer they like to stay indoors during the day and go outside on pasture during the night.
Giving cows access to pasture has been shown to be positive for their udder, foot- and leg health. However, some dairy farmers find it difficult to provide cows access to pasture. In British Columbia, for example, the ground becomes too wet in the winter months making pasture access impossible. In addition, giving cows pasture access may also economically or practically not be feasible for all farms.
At the University of British Columbia we are trying to develop alternative options for outdoor access that we hope will provide some of the same benefits for cows.
Some cows on the video have distinctive markings on their coats – these are made with hair dye and do not harm the cows. The marking allows us to identify individual cows for our analysis.