Location: Livestock Behavior Research
Title: Group size alters postures, and maintenance, oral, locomotor and social behaviors of veal calves Authors
Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 19, 2013
Publication Date: July 8, 2013
Citation: Abdelfattah, E.M., Schutz, M.M., Lay Jr, D.C., Marchant Forde, J.N., Eicher, S.D. 2013. Group size alters postures, and maintenance, oral, locomotor and social behaviors of veal calves. Journal of Animal Science. Proceedings. Technical Abstract: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of group size on behavior of veal calves. Holstein-Friesian bull calves (n = 168; 44 ± 3 d of age), were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments of group housing with 2, 4, or 8 calves per pen (1.82 m2 per calf for all groups). Behavior was observed from video data recorded from 0700 to 1700 h using instantaneous scan sampling every 5 min within 30 min observation sessions, one day each month for 5 mo. Continuous focal sampling around feeding time (30 min before-feeding, 30 min during feeding, and 30 min after-feeding) on d 0, 1, 5, 14, 42, and 70 after grouping focused on all instances of oral and aggressive behaviors. Data were analyzed as a RCB with repeated measures using PROC MIXED (SAS). Calves in groups of 2 spent more time at the feeders (P = 0.001) than calves in groups of 4 or 8. Calves housed in groups of 4 or 8 showed more conspecific contact (P = 0.05), standing (P < 0.001), and less self-licking (P < 0.001) than calves housed in groups of 2. An interaction between treatment and month was observed for manipulation of objects. Calves in groups of 2 manipulated objects more (P = 0.001) than calves in groups of 4 or 8 in mo 3. While in mo 4, calves in groups of 2 and 4 manipulated objects more than calves in groups of 8. An interaction between treatment and month was reported for lying behavior; in mo 2, calves from groups of 2 lay more than calves from groups of 4 or 8, while in mo 3 and 5 calves in groups of 2 and 4 lay more than calves in groups of 8 (P < 0.001). An interaction between treatment and month was observed for walking (P = 0.003); in mo 4 and 5, calves from groups of 4 and 8 walked more than calves from groups of 2. During feeding times group size had no effect on any behavioral patterns except for duration of conspecific contact. Additionally, occurrence of play and aggression were similar around feeding for all treatments. In conclusion, group size affects how oral needs are manifested and affects the use of available space.