Two of the main stressors for cows are regrouping and their competition for resources such as bunk space. Cow competition for feeding space at the bunk during the transition period is associated with pre-established hierarchies within the herd. Older and more experienced cows usually exert dominance over their younger herd-mates.
Some authors contend that increased feeding synchrony is associated with reduced competitiveness and cow well-being, particularly in submissive cows. Dominance is also related to the cow’s body mass and health status since part of it is associated to the intensity with which they can shove around their competition. These agonistic interactions are a source of stress that could result in either developing health problems or even worsen the ones that could already be present.
The question is then how cows ponder their need for nutrients vs. the risk of engaging in competitive agonistic behavior. Are cows feeling strong enough to compete at peak feeding time, or do they wait until there is less competition and thus reduce the risk of agonistic interactions?
Could cow’s behavioural changes help us to predict diseases?
Eating what has been left by dominant cows can result worsen health problems for submissive cows if the first group happens to sort feed. Another question is if these strategies depend on the health status of the cow and if they are consistent over time. Furthermore, could these behavioral changes help detect what kind of ailment is currently affecting submissive cows?